SRI AMAN: A manufacturer and supplier of canned cockles in soy sauce has been fined RM10,000 in default two months’ jail by the Sessions Court here after the product was found to be contaminated with cadmium.
Sessions Court Judge Shahrizat Ismail handed down the sentence on Selangor-based Ma Bo Food Industries Sdn Bhd after taking into consideration public interest, the seriousness of the offence and the health effects of cadmium on those who consumed the product.
Assistant environmental health officers Bong Ting Ting and Garry Banna Masing from the divisional health office here had carried out food sampling at Lian Yi Marketing Sdn Bhd on March 14 this year, including a sample of cockles in soy sauce.
An analysis by the Chemistry Department in Kuching showed that the product was contaminated with cadmium, a metallic chemical element, in a greater proportion than permitted under the Food Regulations and the Food Act.
Further investigation revealed that the product was manufactured by Ma Bo Food Industries in Shah Alam, Selangor, which supplied the products through Wees Marketing Sdn Bhd, Kuching, to the shop in Sri Aman.
The manufacturer was found to be responsible for the offence according to Sections 28 and 24 (3) of the Food Act.
The offence was committed under Section 13 (B) (1) of the Act and carries a penalty or a fine not exceeding RM20,000 or imprisonment of up to five years or both.
Prosecuting officer Edwin Rommel Anthony Dass told the court in his submission that cadmium was normally found in batteries, paint and phosphate fertilisers and primarily used as an anti-corrosive.
It also served as an electrode component in alkaline batteries and was used in alloys, silver solders and welding, he added.
He stressed that excessive levels of cadmium rendered food unwholesome and caused severe health effects on those who ate such contaminated food.
Such an act was therefore fraudulent and aimed at reaping profits at the expense of consumers and the public in general, he said.
“The company has acted recklessly and taken no duty of care to the public,” he said.
Edwin also told the court that, in view of the reckless act of the manufacturer in producing and supplying a contaminated product, the offender should be given a sentence commensurate with the offence to serve as a deterrent to food traders.
He said this would inculcate a sense of duty in them to always provide wholesome food fit for human consumption in accordance with the standards specified in the Food Act and its regulations.
The director of Ma Bo Food Industries paid the fine.
Meanwhile, state Health Department assistant director of legal affairs and prosecution Samuil- Ashton Satu said there had been two other cases of seafood products found to be contaminated with cadmium.
In one of the cases involving contaminated natural dried seaweed, the importer was fined RM8,000.
Samuil advised all food manufacturers to obtain a written warranty or other written statements on the raw products supplied to them that they were complying with the provisions of the Food Act.
He said they could also have their raw products analysed by an approved laboratory before processing them into food products to be sold to the public.
“By doing so, the food manufacturers would be able to ascertain that their products are wholesome and fit for human consumption and that the health of the public would not be jeopardised,” he said.
> Discovered in 1817 by Friedrich Stromeyer and Karl Samuel Leberecht Hermann, both in Germany, as an impurity in zinc carbonate.
> China produces one-sixth of the world’s share followed by South Korea and Japan.
> Commonly used in batteries and electroplating.
> Occupational Safety and Health Administration, United States Department of Labour says acute exposure from cadmium will show flue-like symptoms of weakness, fever, headache, chills, sweating and muscular pains. Acute pulmonary edema usually develops within 24 hours and reaches maximum of three days and can be fatal.
> Chronic cadmium poisoning will cause cancer of the lung and prostate. The first observed chronic effect is generally kidney damage, manifested by excretion of excessive protein in urine. It also causes pulmonary emphysema, bone disease, anaemia, teeth discolouration and loss of smell.
> In Japan, it has caused ‘itaiitai’ disease among residents exposed in rice crops irrigated with cadmium-contaminated water.
> Shellfish like cockles, clams, oysters and mussels from contaminated rivers typically contain the highest cadmium levels. The application of phosphate fertilizers may increase cadmium levels in soil, which, in turn, elevates cadmium levels in food crops. Food is the principal means of exposure to cadmium for non-smokers.