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New law mandates safety testing on all imported food

Food safety bill will require mandatory testing of all food imported into the country as well as food grown in the country.

Ameera Osmanagic
18 May 2024, MVT 16:22
[File] Food items in a local shop
Ameera Osmanagic
18 May 2024, MVT 16:22

Minister of Health Dr Abdulla Khaleel on Thursday said that all food imported into the country will need to undergo mandatory testing to ensure safety once the new Food Safety Bill comes into effect.

In a press conference held at the Ministry, Minister Khaleel said that Maldives Food and Drug Authority (MFDA) stands to gain many powers once President Dr Mohamed Muizzu ratifies the bill which has now been passed by parliament.

This includes testing food prior to being imported into the country and taking action against parties that serve food in unsafe conditions.

Currently food testing in the country is carried out at random. However testing will become mandatory before importing once the law comes into effect.

"From the point which food to be imported into the country reach the [importing] gate, MFDA has the authority to collect samples. Once the law comes [into effect], [food] importers will be notified to send samples to MFDA. This includes reducing costs and fines incurred due to [food items being held] in customs for long," the minister said.

He explained that once the samples are tested and the food product is considered safe, it would be allowed to be imported into the country.

He also noted that although various chemicals are used in local farming, Maldives currently has limited options available for testing produce. As such, discussions are ongoing to send samples of locally grown produce abroad for testing, Minister Khaleel said.

"From that point we will be able to determine the level of dangerous substances in the food we consume, and put pressure on parties that import food in to Maldives to make [such food items] safe. Additionally, we can notify those who produce food products in the Maldives, including local farmers, to use chemicals only within the limits determined by the regulations, and no more," he elaborated.

"That will greatly support this initiative by the President as we work to ensure food safety," he further added.

The Food Safety Bill categorises food in to 10 sections. This includes plant produce, animal and animal parts, processed food, food supplements made for special dietary needs, chewing gum and other chewing ingredients (betel leaves, Areca nut, etc.).

The bill is to be implemented within three months from the date of ratification.

The alarming cancer rates in the Maldives have been attributed to chemicals in food by some, although no study has been conducted to confirm this claim.