Because of increasing poverty and price hikes:Yemenis compromise their health by consuming expired products [Archives:2007/1087/Front Page]

September 20 2007

By: Saddam Al-Ashmouri
For Yemen Times

SANA'A, Sept 19 – A recent study by the Economy Faculty in Aden University indicated that 90 percent of shops in public markets sell fake commodities including all types of essential edibles, preserved foods, sweets, electrical goods, consumer commodities and cosmetics.

The study attributed the overflow of these fake commodities to the recent domestic and international price hikes, forcing people to hunt after cheap products.

Another scientific study showed that most types of preserved foods including sweets, meats, and soft drinks contain a high percentage of contamination, amounting, sometimes, to 19 percent.

Price hikes and low incomes have left citizens no choice but to resort to commodities sold in public markets, despite the fact that such commodities have been expired or are about to expire. Merchants' greediness seduced them to increase the prices of commodities and forging the dates of manufacturing and expiration. Others have brought out their about-to-expire commodities and sold them through street vendors. Citizen's ignorance and the increase of prices have made people buy such commodities since they will find a difference between prices sold in shops/supermarkets and those of street vendors.

Abdu Ahmed Al-Miswari, one of those people who buy about-to-expire or expired commodities, commented “we buy such commodities because we are unable to buy the expensive ones; however, nothing happens to us. We have children who want to eat and drink like other people.”

He added that he buys juice, tuna, Pepsi and chocolates and asserted the commodities he buys are not expired as they are like those sold in supermarkets and shops.

“Why do you say? Expired!! They are like those sold in shops. Oh my son! You journalists, you have nothing to do but hunt after the issues of poor people. Go to merchants and ask them why they are raising prices,” he said.

Abdullah Saghir, an elderly man carrying his things on his shoulder came and asked for mango, tuna, chocolates and other items from a local street vendor.

When asked why he buys things from vendors, he replied the commodities here are sold at low prices. A bottle of mango juice is sold at YR 300 in the grocery, while he can buy it against YR 100 from street vendors.

He gives no importance to the expiration of commodities and believes authorities prevent vendors from selling expired commodities.

“If dangerous and expired, the state will not allow them to sell them,” he remarked.

He further believes such commodities are sold at low prices because charities subsidize them, adding that nothing has happened to him, his family or those he knows.

Naqib and Al-Naqib believe the bad situation in which people live pushed them to seek cheap commodities, adding most people are illiterate and they do not differentiate between what is expired and unexpired.

Al-Naqib went on to say the matter is in need for awareness and control by the concerned authorities, hinting the absence of awareness and control would prompt citizens to think that street vendors work legally and their commodities are valid.

Ahmed Al-Wisabi pointed out low-income and poor people are the sole victims of price hikes. “We are human beings and we want our sons to get what others get and there is no other option but to buy those cheap commodities,” lamented Al-Wisabi.

Al-Wisabi added he used to give his sons YR 20 everyday to buy sweets; however, prices rose and he can no longer afford it. Now, I buy them a packet of chocolates against YR 200 and it lasts for two days. He further hinted some of his children got affected by such commodities.

Fuad Yusuf asserted that he once got food poisoning although the date written on the can says it was still valid.

“I advise people not to buy such commodities and the concerned authorities should observe markets,'' noted Yusuf.

Vendor Ahmed Al-Wisabi noted that he buys these commodities from wholesalers and sometime sells them against agreed percentages.

“Rely on Allah and nothing will hurt you,”said Al-Wisabi when told that semi-expired commodities cause health problems to consumers.

To know the effects of these commodities on consumers' health, we talked to some physicians.

Physician Salah Al-Tayar noted there are a lot of effects resulting from eating these semi-expired or expired foods including poisoning, liver disease, bleeding intestines and even brain damage.

He further added that the most damaging commodities include proteins like meats, milks, cheese, etc.

Maher Al-Shami agrees with Al-Tayar and believes that people buy these commodities because of their low price; however, they do not think of the consequences.

Apart from being expired, the preserved foods sold in streets are exposed to sunlight and surely they get contaminated and, thus, affect health.

The Deputy Head of Standards and Quality Control Authority, Ahmed Al-Bashah, hinted that they are preparing a program aiming to make a comprehensive campaign that targets wholesaling and retailing shops and importers' stores, bakeries, etc to make sure of the standards, as well as storing and preserving regulations.

Al-Bashah added that all commodities not complying with standards or expired will be confiscated and the violators will be referred to prosecution, noting their names will be published according to Trade and Industry Minster's directives.

Concluding his remarks, Al-Bashah admitted that large quantities of commodities used seasonally in Ramadan are either standards-violating or expired. He further thought that many of these commodities entered Yemeni markets illegally.