Bahrain probes tainted dates
Manama, September 13, 2007
Bahrain's health officials yesterday launched an investigation into a batch of maggot-infested dates.
Earlier, Tunisian authorities denied the product was tainted before it was shipped to Bahrain.
The Gulf Daily News, our sister newspaper, reported yesterday that two housewives had complained they bought the dates only to find them crawling with worm-like creatures.
Authorities have since seized 79 boxes of dates from one cold store alone and authorities plan to extend their inquiry to all imported dates to ensure that they are being stored properly.
The issue is particularly significant with the advent of Ramadan, during which time dates are traditionally eaten when people break their fast.
"This is a serious issue and should not have happened," Health Ministry food control section head Dr Abdulla Ahmed told the newspaper.
"Inspectors have raided cold stores, particularly in Manama, and have taken control of scores of boxes of dates. Seventy-nine boxes have been confiscated from one cold store alone near the Middle East Hotel."
He added that importers and Customs officials are also being contacted as part of the probe. "We shall randomly look at all consignments of dates to ensure they are all safe to be eaten," he said.
"It is always possible that improper storage facilities have resulted in the worms coming in. We are also in the process of contacting the importing agents as well as our own officials at entry points to determine how this could have happened."
Dr Ahmed also issued a general warning to the public to check dates before consuming them.
"While it is true consumers cannot open sealed packets at the shops, we encourage them to report anything untoward in the interest of public health," he added.
A Tunisian Embassy spokesman denied exporters in his country were to blame.
"It is unfortunate that such an incident has happened, but we would like to reiterate that the worms were there as a result of improper storage and not because of the quality," he said.
"We would want the health authorities to seek the real reason for such a thing happening and wish to assure all Bahrain residents that Tunisian dates are of the highest quality." - TradeArabia News Service