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Sri Lanka Customs checking for leaks of coconut oil with aflatoxin

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka Customs is deploying a separate team to check whether coconut oil with higher that permitted levels of aflatoxin, which have been taken out of the port is re-exported in its entirety, Director General of Customs Vijitha Ravipriya said.

“We are checking in companies’ storages as well to check whether they have the same quantity we released from the customs,” Ravipriya, a retired military Major General told reporters.

“If not, then a penalty will be charged according to the custom rules.”

Sri Lanka Standards Institute of Standards had informed Sri Lanka Customs on March 04, 2021 that six consignments of coconut oil imported by Ali Brothers Pvt Ltd, Edirisinghe Edible oil Pvt Ltd and Katana Refineries Pvt Ltd, had higher than permitted levels of aflatoxin.

“We informed it to those companies on the same day to re export the containers” Ravipriya said.

“However they have the right to ask for a second test.”

“During the first test the consignments will be in the customs storage. But during the second test the customs releases them from its storage to those individual companies’ storage due to the lack of storage facilities in the custom.”

A Corporate Guarantee is taken not to use the any of the consignments pending the second results.

He said after the second results came on March 29, the companies were again informed to re export the consignments.

On March 29 they were informed for the second time to re-export the coconut oil.

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“Re-export is not easy. They have to discuss with the shipping companies and they have to get days to ship these consignment,” Major General Ravipriya said.

“It will take some time.”

Amid claims that some of the oil has been released to the market, Customs have deployed a special team to investigate if any of the Coconut oil from the restrained consignments has been released for consumption.

“We are checking in companies’ storages as well to check whether they have the same quantity we released from the customs,” Ravipriya said. “If not, then a penalty will be charged according to the custom rules.”

Sri Lanka customs on Wednesday took over two bowsers belonging to one of the importers. The bowsers did not have Customs seal, he said.

Related Sri Lanka Customs probing seized coconut oil bowsers amid aflatoxin scare

Director General of the Sri Lanka Standards Institute, Siddhika Senaratne said from last September the imported coconut oil amount increased.

“A large amount of coconut oil was started to being imported from last September,” she said. “All consignments were regulated by the SLS, and six consignments were identified to have a high aflatoxin chemical level.”

She said the Health Ministry has the authority to check the food items, and random checks are done.

Senaratne said SLS regulates 122 items including 48 food items imported to the country. On SLS regulated items each and every consignment is sample tested, she said.

“We get the samples and send them to lab,” she said. “If the tests results are negative or not to the required quality, the customs will be informed to re export those consignments”

“When we tell them to re export they can’t do it immediately. The customs need to check whether the same quantity is there when the consignment arrived and whether they have released the product to public or not. If so a penalty will be charged from those companies before they re-export.”

She said, when a consignment fails the test, the company will be black listed in SLS, customs and export import controller until the company gets a certificate from the export import controller to import again.

There is however no aflatoxin tests on domestically produced foods. Some agricultural products like coconut oil, peanuts, maize, and chilies could have aflatoxin, which is linked to a fungus. (Colombo/ April 01/2021)

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