Muscat: People in the Sultanate have welcomed the recent raids conducted by consumer-protection officials to seize expired food items.
"The raids should be conducted regularly. It was only after the recent raid reports that we came to know that these greedy traders, especially expatriates, who are only interested in making money, were poisoning us.
It was shocking to find out that they were even selling expired cookies and sweets for children. Now, I have stopped buying packaged and tinned snacks for my kids. How will I know whether the food inside the packets is rotten, even though the packets bear valid expiry dates?" Mariam Al Raisi, a mother of three children residing in Azaiba, told Times of Oman.
Over the last few months, consumer protection and municipality officials have raided dozens of shops and warehouses and have seized tonnes of expired food items all over the Sultanate.
The Public Authority for Consumer Protection (PACP) found that a company importing foodstuff from a neighbouring country was involved in the malpractice. The company was caught tampering with the production and expiry dates of more than 36,000 packets of 25 types of food items in Muttrah and Saham.
"The fraudulent activity was conducted by some expatriates," said Dr. Said Bin Khamis Al Kaabi, Chairman of PACP.
"PACP will remain vigilant to stop such elements from earning money through illegal means. Deterrent laws are the way to stop people from committing such malpractices," Al Kaabi added.
According to a PACP report, a passenger carrying large quantities of labels and stickers for foodstuff, which didn't bear any manufacturing or expiry dates, was arrested at Muscat International Airport on Wednesday.
"Further investigations conducted in this person's food-storage head office in Walaja, Ruwi, revealed that they were altering the expiry dates and were ready to sell expired food items. The culprits have been taken into custody, and the case has been referred to the public prosecution," the report added.
Consumer protection officials found coconut powder, banana chips, nuts, dried fish, and other food items in the store, which had been stored for packaging in covers with valid expiry dates.
The officials also seized equipment for repackaging expired food items from there.
During the recent raids, it was also revealed that expired food items were being sold in new packets with valid expiry dates. The quality and brand had been changed, and some of the packets did not even have the item's net weight printed on them.
"I read that a food store, managed by a Keralite trader in Ruwi, was raided recently and was slapped with penalties for selling expired food items in new packets bearing valid expiry dates. The officials should act tough with these greedy traders. Their trading licenses should be cancelled," stated an Indian homemaker, who didn't want to disclose her identity.
This month, stores selling repackaged expired medicines and biscuits were also raided by officials.
"I think it is a great start! Many of these items have been sold in local markets, and many people do not check the date, especially when they are in a rush. So it is wonderful that the agency has started this initiative. Hopefully, now, fewer people will get sick from food poisoning," stated Dr. Kawthar Hameed Abdullah, an educational psychologist and special-education specialist.