BEIRUT: Government officials and business leaders stood together Friday in calling for stricter food safety measures as news broke that a man convicted of selling spoiled meat had been sentenced to one year in prison and ordered to pay a fine of LL50 million.
Arslan Sinno, vice chairman of the Lebanese-American Chamber of Commerce, told a gathering at the chamber’s offices in Sanayeh that Lebanon should update its laws to be in line with international standards.
“We want to nourish the Lebanese market and economy to give it international exposure,” Sinno said.
Industry Minister Vreij Sabounjian later took the floor, promising to “promote strategies aimed at improving food safety in Lebanon.”
Improving food safety mechanisms would not only safeguard consumers, but also boost the country’s exports to Europe and the U.S. where stricter standards and regulations are enforced.
“With the U.S. and Europe’s strict laws for imports, especially food, which preserve the health and safety of their citizens, it has become an imperative for [Lebanese producers] to familiarize themselves with these new ... systems that are based on [contamination] prevention and mitigating [negative] impacts on public health,” he said.
Saboujian went on to say that joint specialized teams from the Agriculture and Industry ministries would inspect all food factories before granting certification to ensure they were in line with Lebanese law. He also said owners of factories would be forced to keep detailed records on all food products for at least five years after sale.
“They [Europe and the U.S.] want us to meet the same food safety standards they impose on their own food products out of concern for their own safety, so why don’t we meet these standards in our exports and imports out of concern for our safety and that of our society?”
Roger Melki, speaking on behalf of Economy Minister Nicolas Nahhas, echoed many the same points, adding that food safety and monitoring was currently divided between the Health, Economy and Industry ministries.
“The Lebanese law needs to be updated in this regard,” he stressed, reminding the audience that the food safety draft law has not been approved by parliament, which is not meeting due to a boycott by some factions.
“The Economy Ministry is determined to strengthen Lebanon’s capacities in the field of food safety,” he said, noting practices of sampling and laboratory testing which are routine in Europe and the U.S.