Retailers must now adhere to the stipulations for supplying the commodity which mandate its pre-packaging in bags which are heat-sealed and not tied with a string or knot.
Additionally, label information must include product and brand names; net content; the manufacturer’s name and address; distributors; importers or vendors; storage conditions; country of origin; lot identification number; date markings; and instructions for use. These standards were gazetted on December 30, 2016.
This move by the Government is in recognition of the potential health risks posed to consumers accustomed to buying sugar retailed in transparent unlabelled plastic bags, in the belief that the commodity has been packaged in safe and hygienic conditions.
For their own health and safety, consumers are advised to now only purchase properly labelled and packaged sugar.
Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries Minister, Hon. Karl Samuda, advises consumers to be vigilant in safeguarding their rights under the standards being implemented, pointing out that if sugar being supplied “is not consistent with the regulations, as outlined, do not purchase it.”
Mr. Samuda, who was speaking during a recent press conference at the Ministry’s New Kingston office, also informed that the Consumer Affairs Commission (CAC) has been directed to increase its vigilance in the marketplace in monitoring the packaging and quality of sugar being sold.
The CAC’s Chief Executive Officer, Dolsie Allen, also urges consumers to examine products before making a purchase.
“We ask that you report to the CAC any type of deviation that you would have noticed in the marketplace. Give us information so that we can at least visit those locations to ensure that they are complying with the standards that have been laid down,” she tells JIS News.
Mrs. Allen further encourages consumers to be vigilant, pointing out that while most Jamaicans have been purchasing sugar that is retailed without any indication of expiration, the commodity has a shelf life.
Data indicates that while sugar has a fairly long shelf life, it is best consumed within two years.
Additionally, she says proper labelling can help with traceability, in the event a consumer is seeking redress for a flawed product or any other issue.
“Sometimes (for example) there may be extraneous material in the sugar (such as) some form of contamination. So if you don’t know exactly what factory it is coming from, then we are not able to offer the appropriate redress to consumers,” Mrs. Allen adds.
Meanwhile, Chairman of the Sugar Association of the Caribbean, Karl James, welcomes implementation of the new standards, noting that he is pleased with the decision to improve the manner in which sugar is presented to the consumer.
He contends that retailers engaging in the practice of packaging sugar in unlabelled and improperly sealed bags “have gotten away with it for too long”, noting that he has long called for implementation of the standards being embarked on, and which are already being practised by some local manufacturers.
Mr. James tells JIS News that he is also happy with the Government’s move to safeguard the health of Jamaicans, noting that mandatory packaging and labelling standards will ensure food safety.
In the meantime, Mr. Samuda also appealed for strict compliance with the new standards, and encouraged repackers and regulators of sugar, operators of supermarket chains, and marketing companies to “join with us in making this programme a success”.
Mr. Samuda further advised that all sugar repackers must be registered with the National Compliance and Regulatory Authority (NCRA).
“This will now ensure that the consumer will be getting a product that is processed and packaged under hygienic conditions and free from foreign matter,” he said.
In addition, the Bureau of Standards Jamaica (BSJ) and the NCRA will continue to monitor and guide the implementation process. There will also be ongoing monitoring of the quality of the sugar being produced.
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