By Lester Kong
KUALA LUMPUR - The Health Ministry has put dried fruit products, particularly plum and prune products, from 15 companies in China, Taiwan and other Asian countries, on Level 5 alert because of their high levels of lead.
Ministry staff will be on the lookout for these products under the Food Information System of Malaysia (FoSIM) at entry points for 15 manufacturers and distributors to ensure the products do not come into the country, Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said on Thursday.
With a Level 5 alert, the Ministry would hold the products to test them for lead content before they can be released into the market.
The highest alert, Level 6, involves an immediate rejection of the product.
Currently, dried fruit product by other manufacturers and distributors were permitted to be imported and sold in Malaysia, said Liow. "If these products (from the 15) are found in the market, they will be seized and sampled for lead analysis," he added.
A list of the 15 manufacturers and distributors can be found at http://www.dshs.state.tx.us/foods/plumproducts.shtm.
Liow said the monitoring was started following an Oct 1 US Food and Drug Administration report warning people not to consume dried fruit, including dried plums and prunes, due to lead contamination.
"If a product by a manufacturer or distributor is found to contain more than the permitted two parts per million (ppm), legal action will be taken under the Food Regulations 1985," Liow told reporters after launching the ministry's management conference on Thursday.
It was learnt that products from the 15 contained lead levels of up to 30 ppm.
"We advise consumers not to buy products from the affected manufacturers and distributors while sellers who have them should report them to the district health office or the state health department," he said.
If convicted, guilty parties can be fined up to RM100,000, jailed for up to 10 years or both.
Lead, in cumulative amounts over time, causes nervous system disorders and distorts brain development, especially in children.
-The Star/Asia News Network