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Olam Ghana busted for attempting to repackage margarine beyond expiry date

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Olam margarineOlam Ghana, the subsidiary of multinational food giant Olam, has been caught by officials of the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority in Tema while the company was attempting to repackage margarine which ‘Expiry Date’ had passed.

The company on September 29, 2015 was found by customs officials as its employees were in the act of repackaging some quantities of margarine into new cartons with extended expiry dates. The expiry date printed on the product by the manufacturers had passed.

According to the information on the packages, the product was manufactured on September 24, 2014 and to expire on September 24, 2015.

Following the Customs action, and after sealing off Olam Ghana’s warehouse, they called in the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA), which subsequently shut the warehouse with its own locks.

When ghanabusinessnews.com inquired from the FDA, officials at the regulatory institution said Olam Ghana after the June 3 floods was struggling to sell and distribute the margarine which was due to expire in a few months time. Olam, therefore sought the FDA’s approval to extend the expiry dates and shelf life of the product.

The FDA however declined.

Speaking on the matter to ghanabusinessnews.com in the presence of two FDA officials, Deputy Chief Executive of the FDA – Food Inspectorate Division, Mrs Isabella Mansa Agra, explained that although food products are not absolutely inedible and unsafe for consumption after the expiry date, (or absolutely safe prior to the expiry date), the determination of the expiry date of any food product, is the sole preserve of the manufacturer.

But according to a spokesperson of Olam Ghana, the company had the assurance of the margarine’s manufacturer that it could still be used for a certain period after the expiry date and it was on such firsthand assurance that Olam had sought to extend the margarine’s shelf life.

According to Mrs. Agra, the FDA determined that the margarine was wholesome and fit for consumption when it examined the lab report produced by the destination inspection company SGS and validated it. But the FDA instead of extending the shelf life of the margarine as requested by Olam, proposed in June to supervise the distribution of the product, exclusively to end-user bakeries that would use the margarine immediately, to avoid any danger to the public through retail.

“You must send it to an end user. You cannot put it on the market for resale. You cannot give it to any bakery that is even going to resell,” Mrs Agra said on some rules guiding the supervised distribution of such products.

The FDA told ghanabusinessnews.com, that it asked Olam Ghana to provide it with a list of bakeries that it would supervise the controlled distribution to.

The FDA said while it was waiting for the list and details of Olam Ghana’s intended customers, so the controlled distribution could be done, customs officials in Tema on September 29, drew the FDA’s attention to the repackaging of the margarine at the company’s warehouse in the Tema Free Zone enclave.

Meanwhile, the Olam Ghana spokesperson tells ghanabusinessnews.com that the company is doing the controlled distribution of the margarine with the FDA, but Mrs. Agra denied that claim, saying there is no FDA official involved in any controlled distribution of the products with Olam Ghana, indicating, “We have the keys here,” she said.

However, the Olam Group prides itself in what it calls “The Olam Sustainability Standard” – a set of policies and codes covering seven focus areas, of which food safety is part.

“Ensuring our ingredients and products are delivered to customers without contamination or adulteration is the bedrock of our quality and compliance programmes,” the company says on its website.

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi & Emmanuel Odonkor

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