Cole distances self from ‘fishy’ importation of sardines, ovaltine

-entry had previously been refused

GAFDD Director Marlan Cole

As evidence continues to emerge that the Government Analyst-Food & Drug Department (GAFDD) continues to face a ‘pushback’ against the execution of its mandate insofar as the effective enforcement of key provisions of the Food and Drugs Act is concerned, the Department’s Director, Marlan Cole is speaking out against what he appears to believe are determined efforts to undermine the integrity of the system.

This week and not for the first time Cole has been expressing a measure of uneasiness over what appears to be actions being taken to overturn decisions taken in accordance with decisions of the courts and in accordance with the provisions of the Food and Drugs Act regarding the importation of items of food and drugs into Guyana.

This newspaper is in receipt of communication regarding Cole’s protestations over seeming irregularities associated with the clearance of a quantity of sardines and into Guyana after the consignments had already been refused entry on the  grounds that they has not met the requisite labelling requirements stipulated under the regulations.

In the communication directed at another member of staff of the GAFDD, Cole brusquely inquired as to the authority that had caused the consignment to be cleared for entry into the country by a person other than himself after “same was refused entry twice.” Cole’s terse memorandum also inquired as to the authority that allowed for the release of a quantity of “ovaltine on the market” which he said “had no traceability to the country of origin” and was labeled in a foreign language.   His memorandum further pointed out that the GAFDD’s decision to refuse entry to these goods “was guided by the Courts, the Inspector’s Report and (the GAFDD) made a professional judgement on these matters in the best interest of the consuming public.” Both items bore evidence of labeling irregularities.

Cole’s communication is the latest in a series of vocal concerns which he has expressed over the dangers associated with what he regards as the uncontrolled and irregularly authorized importation of items of food and drugs into the country, seemingly by influential importers and in contravention of the Food and Drugs Act. All of this notwithstanding the fact that the GAFDD has had to move to the courts repeatedly to stop the entry of goods for want of proper certificates of origin and/or serious labeling irregularities.

Guyana has not escaped what, in recent years, has been a global multi-billion dollar fake foods and fake drugs racket that allows for items that include baby foods, beverages and drugs associated with serious illnesses to be imported into Guyana through means that circumvent the provisions of the Food and Drugs Act.

Cole has sought at various public fora to reinforce the right of the Department to refuse entry into Guyana for sub-standard commodities though there is evidence that his efforts are sometimes thwarted by influential importers. At the same time, Cole has said that his Department continues to work with the Customs and Trade Administration to ensure that imported commodities meet the required standards and are fit for human consumption.

Cole has on occasion told this newspaper that there exists a perception in some quarters that his Department lacks the authority to direct the refusal of entry for any commodity. Provisions exist under Cap: 82:01 of the Customs and Trade Administration Act for a government analyst and/or inspector to make ‘on the spot’ decisions in relation to items and commodities entering the country. Though Cole is on record as saying that the authority of the GAFDD is underpinned by a “strong documentation system” it is no secret that some importers have succeeded in circumventing the regulations, possibly with ‘inside’ help.

Regulations of the Food and Drug Department stipulate that the Director of the GAFDD has the right to order any Customs Control Officer to refuse entry to any commodity in circumstances where it is deemed to pose a likely threat to the health and well-being of the consumer.

While Cole has distanced himself from what he appears to see as a transgression of the law this newspaper understands that he has only just proceeded on Annual Vacation Leave. He was therefore unavailable to say what further steps will be taken in the matter.

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