Importers protest leads to probe of Food and Drug director’s actions

Sueria Manufacturing, along with as many as ten other importers took to the Ministry of Public Health yesterday to protest regulations instituted by Director of the Government Analyst Food and Drug Department Marlan Cole.

By late afternoon, President David Granger had sent correspondence to Cole through Minister of Public Health Dr George Norton, instructing an investigation into the claims being made against him.

While Cole confirmed being in receipt of the letter, he would not divulge the contents. However, a source revealed that the director was given 48 hours to respond to the memo.

Chief Executive Officer of Sueria Manufacturing Frank Sanichara said last evening that the group was driven to protest what he said was Cole’s abuse of power. He stated that after importers would have fulfilled requirements set out by Cole, he would “come up with additional requirements”.

“The man has been acting outside of the law. You cannot create your own law,” Sanichara said in an interview yesterday.

He made reference to an article published by Stabroek News on October 30, 2015, addressing food import regulations relating to the labelling of products. It was stated, “Regulations relating to the release of imported food items on the local market dictate that these must be accompanied by documentation which includes a Free Sale Certificate or a Health Certificate and /or a Certificate of Analysis.”

It was further stated, “The Free Sale or Health Certificate must be issued by the national regulatory authority or agency from the country of origin. The Certificate of Analysis can be issued by an independent laboratory or that of the manufacturer.”

According to Sanichara, who explained that free sale certificates differ by country, Cole has requested that additional criteria be provided on the forms. “He’s asking us to ask government agencies to amend the format to suit him,” Sanichara said. The additional information being requested includes batch number and quantity of the products being imported.

As such, Sanichara said, Cole has been refusing to accept products that have been approved by the United States Department of Agriculture, challenging their authenticity. He stated that the Canadian government does not issue free sale certificates, and failure to submit such has cost him about $3 million or $4 million.

Sanichara confirmed that Cole was concerned with the authenticity of one of the products he is importing and although he would not verify which, a source related that it is the Juicy Juice brand. He stated that the director is contesting the juice content of the product, but has produced no lab reports to support his claims. A source from the Food and Drug Department revealed that the issue lay with the fact that the labelling on the product reads 100% juice. “He’s challenging it based on personal opinion… I don’t want preferential treatment… I am not above the law, I’m not asking for favours, I’m not lobbying to bring in substandard products,” Sanichara stated.

He further stated that similar products are being sold by other companies who are in clear violation of labelling regulations.

The matter is currently before the court.

Sanichara claimed that he has had to send home staff and has lost millions of dollars as a result of Cole’s actions. He also questioned the habit of ministers who go abroad and lobby for entrepreneurs to return home, asking, “How can Guyana be open for business? Look at the people here. Why don’t you invest in the people here first?”

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