(UPDATE) SM Bonus sugar was pulled out of store shelves on Oct. 28 after the Food and Drug Administration flagged it as unregistered, meaning unfit for commercial sale. It's the same issue that beset the maker of beloved liver spread Reno, which has remedied, allowing it to return to groceries and sari-sari-stores.
Call them the food police, FDA inspectors are constantly checking supermarket shelves for similar offenders and are urging online sellers to secure the required permits. They also cover cosmetics and medicine.
Reno was flagged in September for lacking product registration, which it can secure in no more than 20 days under the Philippines' Anti-Red Tape Act. When processed meat like liver spread is registered, this means it complied with safety requirements, said Marilyn Pagayunan, head of the Food and Drug Administration's Center for Food.
The FDA took over the product registration in 2013, when implementing rules of the 2007 Food Safety Act were released. Under its jurisdiction are processed foods, basically anything that has added seasonings and spices and comes in a pack -- hotdogs, hams, corned beef. This was previously the job of the National Meat Inspection Commission, Pagayunan told reportr.
(What follows is an interview with the FDA before Reno secured its certificate of product registration.)
CAN I USE THE RENO IN MY KITCHEN?
Give its manufacturer time to address its regulatory shortcoming, Pagayunan said. "Kung ako, based sa advisory, hindi mo muna siya gagamitin. Wait mo na lang until the company secures a license to operate."
Reno was not denied a product registration. It simply did not apply for it and FDA inspectors, during a random check, found that it lacked one. The company was told as early as 2017 that it needed to a product registration on top of a license to operate, she said.
Before the 2013 implementation of the Food Safety Act required FDA product registration for processed meats, its manufacturers only needed a license to operate, also from the FDA, she said.
"When a product is not registered, we need to inform the consumers. That's the law," she said. For one, registered products are certified to have complied with limits on food additives, she said.
FROM YUMMY.PH: Pork Kaldereta With Liver Spread and Peanut Butter Recipe
WHAT ABOUT FOOD I ORDER ONLINE?
Pagayunan said the FDA has been coordinating with Lazada and Shopee to ensure that the products on the giant e-commerce platforms are registered.
For online sellers, Pagayunan said the FDA was mindful of the need to encourage small businesses to thrive during the pandemic. By law, they also need to register, as long as their merchandise are not raw. Yes, that includes ube cheese pan de sal, she told reportr.
If an inspector finds that a home food business violates sfaety laws, it will be given a chance to correct it before a follow-up inspection, she said. No deadline was set, unlike the Bureau of Internal Revenu's registration drive for e-merchants.
Consider too that FDA inspectors are undermanned relative to the growing number of the market. To solve this, the regulator set priority areas, led by meat (hence, Reno).
WHAT ABOUT THE BEST BEFORE VS EXPIRY DATE?
It's self-explanatory, Pagayunan said. Best before pertains to the quality of food, not necessarily its safety. It tastes the best before the date indicated.
An expiry date is more fortright, consume on the expiry date or the days before. Don't eat it after the expiry date.
Contrary to popular belief that food is good two to three months after the best before date, the FDA said there is no hard and fast rule. That's why food manufacturers are now being required to declare an expiry date beside the best before date.