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Bharath: Manufacturers turning ‘blind eye’

By by Joel Julien joel.julien@trinidadexpress.com

MINISTER of Trade Vasant Bharath yesterday called on local manufacturers to be more vigilant about where their products are ending up and accused some of them of turning a “blind eye” to questionable exports.

Bharath made the statement in a telephone interview with the Sunday Express when he was contacted to comment on the seizure of 732 pounds of cocaine, with a street value of over $.6 billion, concealed in cans bearing the labels of Trinidad Orange and Grapefruit juices at the Port of Norfolk in Virginia, United States on December 20 last year. 

It is the second time in two months a drink produced by local manufacturing company SM Jaleel and Company Ltd has been associated internationally with the illegal drug trade. 

Earlier last month, another drink associated with the company, laced with cocaine was named in the death of a Royal Navy veteran in the United Kingdom.

A liquid cocaine concoction in a Pear D soft drink bottle was blamed for the death of Joromie Lewis. Lewis, 32, is said to have consumed the drink on December 5 and succumbed shortly after.

This led to the voluntary recall of all Pear D drinks bearing the code “BB Jan 08 14”.

Bharath said these incidents can tarnish the country’s image internationally.

“It is not good. There have been two incidents in such proximity to each other in terms of tampering. I have spoken to my office in regard to ramping up the organisations through ExportTT to ensure that they all become FSMA (Food Safety Modernisation Act ) compliant,” Bharath said.

“FSMA compliant is the new food and safety laws that are being implemented by the United States that will ensure that every product that comes through US borders fulfil certain requirements as far as food and safety is concerned.

“It is based on the operations of the plant so it would have to necessarily have certification from the plant that this particular batch of items are being shipped either legitimately through a broker or through the manufacturing plant itself and that way it will prevent people from illegitimately purchasing the product directly, from say, a supermarket and shipping it abroad,” Bharath said.

“Those are some of the things we can do but clearly the criminal mind works in varying ways and there is always a way around something. We just have to make sure we put in place sufficient measures and mechanisms to ensure that we are complaint with legal requirements in the US and secondly that our manufacturers are far more vigilant with regard to where their products end up.”

Bharath said in the past manufacturers have turned a blind eye to incidents because it provided exposure for their products.

“In the past I will tell you that sometimes manufacturers have turned a blind eye to the fact that their products are in different parts of the world even though the manufacturers themselves would not have shipped it but just for exposure they turn a blind eye to the fact that a product has turned up in India or in China or in North America,” Bharath said.         See Page 8

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