TFDA Clears Imported Fish


JF-Expert Member
Aug 2, 2010
| Tanzania


Minister for Health and Social Welfare, Dr Haji Mponda

After prolonged public discussions and pressure, Tanzania Food and Drugs Authority (TFDA) yesterday cleared the controversial fish imports from Japan as fit for human consumption, saying no contamination was found on them.

"The fish consignment imported from Japan is safe as both local and foreign laboratories proved so," TFDA Director General, Hitti Sillo, told a news conference in Dar es Salaam yesterday.

The consignment had sparked protracted public concerns and pressure following claims that the consignment was contaminated with radioactive materials.

Imported from Japan in July, this year by Alphakrust Ltd, the fish provoked heated debates inside and outside the Parliament, prompting the government to direct relevant authorities and agencies, includingArusha-based Tanzania Atomic Energy Commission and TFDA to conduct thorough investigations into the fish consignment.

Initial laboratory tests conducted by the atomic energy commission showed that the fish had no radioactive elements and was therefore fit for human consumption.

However, following pressure from legislators and social groups, the Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Dr Hadji Mponda, directed TDFA to launch special and countrywide operations to stop circulation of the fish in the local markets and take samples for fresh testing.

The food and drug authority took the fish samples to South African-based Laboratory for testing on August 22, this year. The laboratory, internationally certified (ISO 17025: 2005), which is specialised in radioactive elements investigations, tested the samples on August 25, this year, according to the TFDA boss.

"We got results of the testing by the South African laboratory on September 5, this year…they also show that the fish had no contamination and was fit for human consumption," announced Sillo.

He expressed appreciation to the public, police force, media and the importer for their cooperation during the investigation process.

"We also appeal to the general public not to hesitate to forward information on suspected products or food to the relevant authorities and organs," he said.

Asked why the testing of the samples took such a long time, while professionally such radioactive tests take about 30 minutes, TFDA director said there were many procedures which needed to be followed - in taking the samples and sending them for testing in South Africa.

Regarding financial losses incurred by the concerned company and authorities' plans to compensate Alphakrust Ltd, TFDA Head of Legal Services Unit, Advocate Iskari Fute said the investigations by TFDA and other relevant government organs were conducted in "good faith" following reports of radioactive materials on the fish.

"We conducted tests and a series of tests inside and outside the country in good faith…there are legal grounds which obliges us to do that, in order to save lives of people from suspected ‘contaminated fish'…even if there were losses which this company incurred, in the course of these investigations, there is no way the government could compensate them," Fute said.

Speaking to reporters at his office yesterday, Alfa Group Manager, Ganeshani Vedagiri said: "The Alphakrust Ltd incurred huge losses because of bad reports about the fish import…we incurred huge financial and reputation losses, but we have not quantified them and we don't like to do that."

He thanked the government and its agencies for being sensitive to the lives and health of its people, thus deciding to "test and re-test" the fish, noting: "Alphakrust has been importing quality and standard products, and we cannot dare to import contaminated food that would endanger lives and health of people in Tanzania."

Local media reported on August 3, this year quoted Japanese Embassy in Dar es Salaam dismissing as unfounded reports linking a recent consignment of fish imported from Japan, part of which has entered the Tanzanian market, to exposure to radioactivity.

In its official statement, the embassy said the fish had tested radiation-negative when screened by "credible" Japanese institutions including the Health and Social Welfare as well as Agriculture, Forest and Fishing ministries before being shipped out.

The embassy's statement had sought to clear the air over the controversy surrounding the seizure of the frozen mackerel imported from Japan following fears associating them with radioactive contamination.

"The Japanese government would like to clarify its position regarding diligent radioactivity checks. The fish consignment is free from radioactive elements because it was verified by the responsible ministries in Japan before being shipped to Tanzania," it said.

"Preliminary research conducted by the respective ministries did not find radioactive materials on the fish," it added.

According to the statement, investigations on the fish conducted by Japan's Ministry of Health and Social Welfare and that of Agriculture, Forest and Fishing sought to establish whether the mackerel and other seas products in question were indeed contaminated by radiation from Fukushima.

The investigations were conducted by Japanese government ministries after the Great East Japan Earthquake which occurred on March 11 (this year), it said.

The statement elaborated that Japanese government authorities have been routinely undertaking such tests to determine the possibility of any radioactive impact on mackerel and other marine products from Fukushima, where an accident occurred at a nuclear power plant occurred, as well as in other areas that might have been affected.

"Throughout these ongoing tests, there have been no cases of mackerel sales or exports being restricted due to radioactive contamination," it said.

It further noted that if fish that made it to Tanzania were caught before March 11, there was "absolutely no possibility" that it could have been affected by the accident.

Initially, according to the embassy, the Fisheries Agency under the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries in Japan contacted Kaneyama Corporation, the exporter of the seized mackerel, "which was able to provide the necessary documentation to prove that the 124.992 tonnes of mackerel in question had been tested by the Japan Frozen Foods Inspection Corporation, an inspection agency registered by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, and the detected radioactive substance was practically zero".

By Judica Tarimo, The Guardian

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