Expired Foodstuffs in the Yemeni Market: Too Dangerous To Tolerate [Archives:1999/42/Health]

October 18 1999

Yasser M. Ahmed,
Yemen Times
One of the many faces that chaos in societies can take, is playing havoc with the lives of the innocent people before the very eyes of the government. This can be done in many ways. What I am going to focus on, is what I came across during my wonderings through the streets and allies of Sanaa. I turned my head right and left to see heaps of canned food and other food stuff scattered in front of hawkers who were surrounded by tens of people attracted by their familiar voices. I ,too, was attracted by one of the voices which sounded, somehow unique, offering his articles for less than half of their real prices. When I approached him, I held a canned food in my hand. I was hardly surprised as I scrolled my eyes searching for the expiry date and read it carefully. That was the reason then, I told 
myself, for offering goods for less than half of their real prices. It was very painful to me, yet more painful was the sight of little children surrounding a hawker selling expired bars of chocolates. Adults are able to know whether what are they buying is eatable or not, but who can prohibit children from buying very cheap bars of chocolates attractively covered. What about the illiterates who can not read or do not understand the meaning of food having crossed the expiry date. What is the root of this problem? Is it the smugglers who bring such articles into our country? Is it the hawkers, especially, when they know that what they sell is no longer eatable? Is it due to the absence of the government security? Is it the consumers themselves? Many questions struke my mind one after the other. Let me begin with the consumer:
In my opinion, the consumer is the core of the problem since he is the person who buys. In our country, a good number of consumers do not care for what they eat. In my stroll around the streets I asked some of the people gathering around the hawkers if they knew that the goods they were gazing at were fit enough to eat. Most of them gave ambiguous replies. What these people had ignored was that those goods were directly exposed to the heat of the sun through the day and that had worsened the quality of the goods even more. What prompts consumers to buy such goods? The reason might be because these goods are easily available to the consumers or because of their low price. Whatever the reason is, it does reflect the state of the people’s awareness and understanding. At this point, the media must intervene and do what is proper.
Governmental and non-governmental’ control is necessary for protecting consumers. The government must keep a watchful eye on the land, sea and air inlets to stop smuggling. The public should be aware of the importance of this noble work. In addition, the government must make available a number of bulletins to control all the eatable goods entering our country.
As far as the non-governmental organizations’ role in protecting the consumer is concerned, only one society, The Yemeni Society for the Consumer’s Protection, has been established. This society mainly aims at:
i) Raising the consumer’s awareness about the products’ quality
ii) Carrying on researches and laboratory check ups for products
iii) Encouraging issuance of regulations to protect the consumer.
Unfortunately, instead of safeguarding the interests of the people, this Society is prone to the traders’ pressures who see in its work a threat to theirs. Will this Society live on? I hope so.
Now, as heaps of expired and smuggled food stuffs have filled the market, will the authorities concerned try to do something to stop this MUDDLE!