Liberia: Contaminated Frozen Food Company Reopens, Raising Concerns Over Outdated Laws
Monrovia – FrontPageAfrica has discovered that the Old Road branch of the Diamond Food Incorporated has reopened less than one week after being shut down for selling contaminated fish.
Report by J. H. Webster Clayeh, [email protected]
The National Fisheries and Aquaculture Authority discovered last week that the company was using high concentration of formaldehyde (about 19.14g/l) to alter the natural property of imported fish.
The store was ordered closed on Tuesday, May 29 following the receipt of a laboratory examination result which was commissioned by a joint ministerial inspection team including the Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MoCI).
According to the laboratory examination result, a sample of imported fish in the possession of the Diamond Food contained a high degree of formaldehyde which was used in the cold storage for preserving the fish.
But when a FPA reporter visited the market on Monday, June 5 it was discovered that the store has since reopened and continue to sell cartoons of frozen foods to customers.
Attempts to speak with several marketeers about the sale and purchase of frozen food by the store failed.
They expressed frustration that the store was already reopened by the government of Liberia without what they called “any penalty or fine” levied on the company.
One woman, who did not give her name, said, “Go ask your government officials who opened the place.”
John Zayzay, a money exchanger at the front of the store, told FrontPage Africa that the frozen food store was immediately reopened a day after its closure by the joint ministerial inspection team.
According to Zayzay, many people did not care to know that the place was closed few days ago for selling contaminated food.
“I am telling you, since the place was shut down and reopened the next day people kept coming in to buy fresh fish and chicken cartoons like hell,” he said.
“This company has been in this bad practice for a very long time. For them to be closed and the next day open; I think something is wrong somewhere.”
A source at the Ministry of Commerce and Industry said after the store was closed, its owners complained to the Ministry of Justice that they were shut down illegally.
“So the Solicitor General appealed to the Ministry requesting that the store remains under lock and key while the rotten fish is being disposed by the Monrovia City Corporation,” the source said.
“But they are not cooperating so the commerce ministry is ready to again shut it down Tuesday.”
While the MoCI embarks on its campaign of raiding the city of expired food products, many are expressing concerns about the outdated law – penalty for companies and individuals caught selling expired food products.
They are arguing that fines imposed on violators are nominal to the gravity of offense and the consequent health hazards their action may cause many Liberians who unknowingly feed on these contaminated products.
Also, the Ministry has recently complained about the outdated laws, which it says makes it improbable to levy hefty fines along with prosecution of violators.
Minister Wilson Tarpeh told FPA on Tuesday that Diamond Food Inc, was fined US$25,000 for its action.
But he also agreed that the law should provide more punishment beyond the fine.
“We are working on an amendment to increase the fine but that’s not only the fine,” Professor Tarpeh said.
“If we fine you and discover that there’s a criminal intent, we will send you to the Ministry of Justice for prosecution.”
He added that the Ministry is working on crafting an Executive Order “that would make the violation to warrant deportation of foreigners if they do that”.
“Because our people are saying, ‘do not just fine them, they will do it again’, so we are working on this Executive Order which will be looking for criminal intent in violators.