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No compromises

Timoci Vula
Thursday, August 04, 2011

Biosecurity Authority of Fiji (BAF) will not compromise the health and safety of the nation because of a multinational company that does not want to toe the line, says Agriculture permanent secretary Colonel Mason Smith.

Col. Smith also said the public needed to understand that goods allowed to enter the country must be treated with the right temperature necessary to kill any vector or disease that may be in the produce.

He said if that happened and people consumed the product, "there is likely to be the transmission of disease from the food to our citizens".

"That must be made clear and we have made it clear to KFC that we cannot compromise the health and safety of our citizens," Col.Smith said.

"The onus is on KFC to provide us with a simple veterinary certificate, that is all we ask," he told the press yesterday.

BAF chief executive officer Elvis Silvestrini expressed disappointment at KFC's move to raise the matter in a public forum.

"We are concerned with the perception that leaves Fiji biosecurity, which we have been working very hard to strengthen and we will not compromise that for anyone," Mr Silvestrini said.

In a letter to all its suppliers this week, KFC general manager Steve Johnson stated their decision to suspend all their business operations was because of rising costs and deteriorating sales.

And an official press from KFC head office in Hawaii stated KFC in Fiji had been forced to suspend operations because BAF had not allowed its imports into Fiji.

"This is not correct," Mr Silvestrini responded.

"The truth is BAF has only temporarily withheld two cartons of milk and egg mix because KFC did not have the required documentation, which is the veterinary certificate.

"We have been waiting for the veterinary certificate since early May (2011). When this is provided, we'll be able to release the cartons," he said, adding the cartons were securely stored pending correct documentation.

Veterinary certificates are required from every importer bringing in these products, which he added was nothing new.

"The certificate assures us that the product has been treated appropriately and is safe to enter Fiji. We have informed KFC of these requirements at every stage and offered several alternatives to resolve the issue."

Mr Silvestrini said BAF had no issues with KFC and that all importers and exporters must abide by Fiji's biosecurity laws.

"The biosecurity laws of this country will not be compromised for anyone, the potential risks are too great," he said.

A meeting is scheduled with Commerce Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum today to address issues involved, in addition to the bio-security aspects of the present "saga".

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