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Jun 26th
Home Sections Food Nene Pimentel Says that Turkish Flour, Like ‘Magic Sugar,’ Should Be Banned
Nene Pimentel Says that Turkish Flour, Like ‘Magic Sugar,’ Should Be Banned PDF Print E-mail
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Sections - Food
Written by Senator Pimentel's Press Office   
Thursday, 25 March 2010 08:22


S enate Minority Leader Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. today urged the government to impose a total ban on imports of Turkish flour into the country in the wake of reports that these may be contaminated and unfit for human consumption. 


“Like magic sugar – an artificial sugar also called sodium cyclamate that could cause dizziness, vomiting and stomach ache and is already banned in  the United States because it could cause cancer – Turkish flour is believed to be carcinogenic and all imports should be immediately stopped,” Mr. Pimentel said.


Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral has cautioned the public against the use of ‘magic sugar’ allegedly being smuggled into the country. Manila authorities are monitoring vendors selling or using the substance in food or drinks they sell and those caught using or selling magic sugar may be charged with violation of Republic Act 3720 or the Foods, Drugs, Devices and Cosmetics Act.


“While the government acted promptly and expeditiously in the case of ‘magic sugar’, it seems to be taking its own sweet time in the case of Turkish flour,” Senator Pimentel lamented. 


The senator had earlier called on the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Department of Health (DOH) and the Bureau of Food and Drugs (BFAD) to probe reports that Filipino consumers may be at risk from eating bread made from contaminated and potentially toxic Turkish flour.


Senator Pimentel said that the government may be “playing Russian roulette with the health of our people by allowing the importation of Turkish flour.”


The senator said he found it disturbing that while Turkey exports wheat flour, it also imports flour for the consumption of its own people.  "When one refrains from consuming what one produces, questions are raised," he said. "Why should we eat bread made from flour which its own producer does not want to touch?" he asked.


A study published by the Journal of Food and Drug (Vol. 16, No. 2, 2008) entitled “Total Aflatoxin, Aflatoxin B1 and Ochratoxin A Levels in Turkish Wheat Flour”, confirmed that Turkish flour is contaminated by mycotoxins "known to exert toxic effect on human and animal health."


The tests on Turkish flour conducted in 2007 by leading Turkish universities, including Istanbul University, showed that 81 percent of samples of flour taken were contaminated with OTA.


"OTA in high levels could cause the increase of urethra, renal and pelvis tumors in the region in the region," said the study in its results and conclusion, which traced mycotoxin contamination of Turkish flour to humidity and temperature changes. 


"Risk originated from mycotoxins should not be omitted in point of public health," it warned. The Turkish study also said that the invasion of cereal grain by fungi is frequently associated with a substantial risk of contamination by mycotoxins, thus the need for legislation to ensure that their presence in food and feeds is minimized.


Big-bread manufacturers in the Philippines do not use Turkish flour because it does not meet their standards. But small bakeries are known to use Turkish flour, sourcing it from Divisoria and elsewhere, to increase their profit margin.


Turkish flour is mainly used in breads like pan de sal, monay, pan de coco and pan de limon. "As always, it is the poor Filipinos who suffer, in this case probably not knowing the risk to their health of that bread they are eating," said Senator Pimentel.


Experienced bakers contend that breads made from Turkish flour are darker in color, have coarser textures and sometimes have an off-putting smell.


"At the very least, the DOH and BFAD must conduct their own tests on Turkish flour to allay fears that the bread we consume is not made with toxic flour,” Senator Pimentel said. 


Local flour millers have in fact decried the “inferior quality” of Turkish flour and asked the government to investigate the technical smuggling of the commodity into the country.


According to the Philippine Association of Flour Millers (Pafmil), of the 86,000 metric tons of flour imported from Turkey last year, some 19,000 MT were undervalued, resulting in revenue losses of P16.9 million for the government.


Senator Pimentel noted that the reported undervaluation of flour imports from Turkey may be taking place at the Port of Manila and the Manila International Container Port under the very noses of Bureau of Customs and Department of Finance personnel. Technical smuggling through undervaluation and misdeclaration, the senator said, not only deprives the government of much-needed revenues, but also poses unfair competition to local industries. # # #


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