Tighter Food Controls

Officials’ checking of food and beverages sold at stores during the Ramadan fasting month should also carry out their work during the other 11 months of the year. Swooping on stores in the lead-up to a major religious festival to make sure products do not endanger health must be an ongoing endeavour.

That’s because in Bali, and right across the country, many food and drinks manufacturers sell below the official radar, with no permission from the Health Ministry, and therefore pose an immense risk to public health.

Cases in recent years of formaldehyde and other hazardous chemicals found in dishes such as meatballs cooked street-side highlight the ongoing danger posed by the immense grey economy.

In Bali, there have been many instances when the rice-based arak spirit, brewed at home or at factory-sized premises, has been laced with methanol to increase volume, leading to dozens of deaths, including among foreigners.

This week officials from the Centre for Food and Drugs Supervision were checking shops in Bali to determine if any were selling outdated food. Not surprisingly, they discovered violations. Nearly half of the shops they visited in one area of the island were found to be selling out-of-date products. This suggests the illegal practice is not a rarity but widespread.

The officials also discovered that some foods contained toxic chemicals likely to render consumers seriously ill.

Indonesia has a long way to go in ensuring public safety in terms of food and drink consumption. While protective legislation may be in place, as with many other aspects of life here, enforcement is lax.

The spot-checks currently taking place ahead of Idul Fitri must therefore take place on an ongoing basis, and those found errant held to account. Showy displays of temporary effort do not benefit the public at all.

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