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Indonesia needs to upgrade food safety standards
Publication Date : 18-07-2012
The Indonesian Consumer Protection Foundation (YLKI) said that the 1988 Health Ministry Regulation on food safety standards is outdated and the government should draw up a new rule that could guarantee the safety of food products, both for local consumption and the international market.
The National Drug and Food Monitoring Agency (BPOM) said recently that Indonesia's food exports are lagging because foreign nations are declining to admit locally produced goods that they say contain tainted ingredients.
The food products, however, are deemed safe for local consumption because the government continues to apply outdated regulations that tolerate high levels of additives.
A 1988 Health Ministry regulation, for instance, approves sulphite additive substances, which could trigger allergies, as acceptable items in the food manufacturing process.
"If other countries have stricter regulations, it is not possible for Indonesia to implement lower standards in food regulations. I think the government should review the 1988 health minister regulation," Husna Zahir of YLKI told The Jakarta Post yesterday.
She said that making adjustments to meet international standards should not be excessively expensive for Indonesia.
"If the Indonesian government does not have the ability to conduct research to examine the impact of specific substances on certain food products, then it has to be aware of certain changes in food regulations in other countries," she said.
Zahir said that the rejection of Indonesian food products could raise questions on whether food and beverage producers had complied with the standard set by the BPOM.
"We also could ask questions on whether we have poor standards or that we actually have strict regulations that the food industry fails to comply with," she said.
Some products from local producers, including sweet soy sauce, chilli sauce and peanut sauce, were denied entry for containing excessive added preservatives.
Locally made brands of sweet soy sauce contained levels of sulphites that were above the legal limits in other nations.
Other products were tainted with hazardous substances such as aflatoxin, a naturally occurring toxin produced by mould, which has been found in peanut sauce used to make pecel, a blanched vegetable salad.
Products such as fried rice spices and bottled chilli sauce also contained florescent dye.
The BPOM said that a high amount of sulphites were added during the production of the palm sugar used to make soy sauce to preserve the sap that was tapped from palm trees to keep it from fermenting.
During a regular food monitoring programme between 2009 and 2010, the BPOM found that 14 per cent of the products that were sampled from local markets contained either hazardous substances or excessive additives.
Meanwhile, Soekirman, a nutritionist from the Bogor Institute of Agriculture (IPB), said consumers should not be too concerned about the hazardous substance found on locally-processed food products. "If they have labels from the BPOM then it is safe," he said.