25th SEA Games Officials to inspect food for formalin, borax

Posted by samakomlao Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Vientiane Public Health Department has ordered sets of formalin and borax tests from Thailand , aiming to ensure food safety for locals and visitors during and after the SEA Games this December.

Head of the Food and Drug Division of the department, Dr Somchine Singhalath said he was unsure of the exact date when medical teams would carry out tests.

“When the testing kits arrive in Vientiane we will immediately begin tests,” he said.

Medical teams will check food quality in hotels, restaurants, markets and roadside vendors.

Dr Somchine said the tests are not being introduced specifically for the SEA Games.

“We do such work regularly. But this time, we will work even harder to ensure all people are being provided with clean and healthy food,” he said.

During the inspections, medical staff will also advise vendors and businesses to ensure all the utensils they use for preparing and serving food are kept clean.

All hotels, restaurants and other food stalls in Vientiane should be free from formalin, borax and other chemical substances.

District medical officials are responsible for conducting food quality tests in their respective districts.

Many food traders import frozen foods that may have been treated with chemicals.

Vendors also use formalin to extend the age of food sold at markets, while borax is used to enhance processed meat goods such as meat balls and sausages.

The use of such chemicals poses serious dangers for consumers.

Formalin can damage the human nervous system while borax can damage the digestive system. Exposure to formalin and borax over an extended period of time can lead to serious health affects.

If people eat food treated with formaldehyde they are at increased risk of developing cancer, according to the Ministry of Health's Food and Drug Department.

Dr Somchine urged all food vendors to operate ethical businesses. They should place their customers' health above financial gains, he said.

Under Lao law, vendors who sell unsafe food that leads to a customer's illness are responsible for the cost of medical treatment and other associated costs.

If a member of the public falls ill or dies as a result of eating unsafe food the vendor is punished under criminal law.

“If we find vendors using form alin or borax in their food, we will immediately destroy the goods, and the vendors will be warned and/or fined,” Dr Somchine said, adding, public participation was also very important in monitoring and apprehending traders undertaking illegal practices.

If people suspect food containing formaldehyde, borax or other dangerous chemicals is being sold at hotels, restaurants or a local market they can contact the Vientiane Public Health Department or the Food and Drug Department of the Ministry of Health.

By Xayxana Leukai

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