MUTTON flaps, the cheap animal rib cut offs banned more than 12 years ago, has found a way into local store freezers, a study has revealed.
Ministry of Trade and Industries permanent secretary Shaheen Ali said the findings brought to question the effectiveness and the sustainability of the ban in recent years.
He said a slight rise was recorded over the past few years, raising concerns for the ministry and the Ministry of Health.
"That is a worrying sign. It tells us that the importers and businesses have found a way around the ban," said Mr Ali.
NCD national director Dr Isimeli Tukana confirmed the slight increase was recorded in the last five years.
"We are investigating that slight increase and like any other imposed ban, we can have a naturalisation period where we will notice its impact and then after a while we will also notice an increase," Dr Tukana said.
"So we have started our investigations and discussions with the Ministry of Trade to address the issue."
The study by Anne Marie Thow of Menzies Centre for Health Polcy at the University of Sydney was conducted in conjunction with the Ministry of Health in Tonga, Fiji and Samoa.
For Fiji's case, Dr Anne Marie said the increase in mutton flap imports could be attributed to packaging issues or other trade-related issues.
Mr Ali also raised the issue of international organisations introducing new policies that affect current trade policies of Pacific island countries.
"This workshop is a classic example of how experts come to the Pacific and say that we need awareness in this and there is deficiencies within our domestic processes but they fail to realise maybe that we have other partners who we need to discuss these issues with and we are not just setting trading policies ourselves but this is a process where we negotiate with other partners under some international framework. It's not as easy as taking a health stance in a trade forum and say that we will now take a measure to stop all products that link to NCDs from coming into Fiji," Mr Ali said.
"That might be good for Fiji but other trade partners might not agree to that. So this are the constraints that our regional organisations need to realise that island countries are dealing with bigger trading partners, more organised trading partners that can have a substantial amount of political pressure apart from economic pressure, so within those constraints trade officials are doing a good job in terms of protecting their interest in terms of trade."
The import of mutton and lamb flaps from New Zealand — the end piece of an animal's rib cut off in processing to get to the high-quality ribs and spare ribs — was banned in 2000.
Consumption of the product was linked to rising obesity.
Although the quantity of mutton and lamb flaps has decreased dramatically since the introduction of the ban, a study has revealed a slight increase of the product in the country.