Inspections reveal unhealthy meat, milk products on rise

May 19, 2010, Wednesday/ 16:23:00/ ERCAN BAYSAL
Recent inspections carried out by the Ministry of Agriculture have found that more producers are releasing unhealthy meat and milk products into the market.Officials argue that the increase in food safety violations stem mainly from recent fluctuations in meat and milk prices, which have triggered problems in the dairy market as well. The rising price of feed and other production costs have led to further trouble in both markets. Some producers have started to use alternative methods of production to minimize costs.

Under such circumstances, the Ministry of Agriculture recently intensified its quest to increase the frequency of inspections in the food market. Tests have found that some producers were deliberately including palm oil instead of milk fat in yoghurt to lower production costs and extend the expiry date of the product.

Palm oil, extracted from the date plant, is a cheap alternative for milk fat and is generally held to pose more hazards to human health as it has a lower rate of unsaturated fat.

Following the inspections, the ministry levied fines on some of the companies, while the business licenses of some were revoked. The Agriculture Ministry is now visiting production facilities relatively more frequently, with 4,400 inspectors carrying out comprehensive inspections in the market. A senior official from the Agriculture Ministry told Today’s Zaman that the ministry would not hesitate to cancel the licenses of such producers if they endanger public safety.

The unhealthy yoghurt was mostly discovered in bazaars and small grocery stores. The inspections also found that some producers used low-quality spices and rotten meat in the production of sausage and fast food at various periods of time.

The Agriculture Ministry has warned the public to beware of such threats and be careful where they buy their products. Nutrition experts say people should not be deceived by relatively lower prices and should pay attention to the quality of food, particularly meat and milk products.

Palm oil is used in cheese as well as in yoghurt due to its low cost, although it is relatively more dangerous to human health. The price of a kilo of palm oil is only TL 1.5; a producer has to pay around TL 8 to produce a kilo of genuine cheese; however, the inclusion of palm oil instead of milk fat reduces costs. The palm oil is mainly imported from Malaysia and Indonesia. Diet experts have said a consumer could easily figure out if yoghurt is healthy or not: If the yoghurt turns sour after a certain period following opening the package then it can be trusted. Otherwise, there is a problem with the product, experts warn.

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