Authorities on Ambergris continue to conduct operations on various stories in search of possible uncustomed goods and expired products. Our Island correspondent has the details.
Jorge Aldana, Island Correspondent: A joint operation team consisting of officers from the Excise and Customs Department, the Belize Agriculture Health Authority (BAHA) and the Public Health Department are conducting special operations on various stores on the island. The special operation is in light of a very serious concern in which many stores have a large inventory expired goods on their shelves. It is a health concern that had officers working around the clock to address the issue. Last week they started their operation at Super Buy Store and today they were at Rock’s Store situated on Pescador Drive in the Downtown area of San Pedro. During the operation the public health officials supported by BAHA personnel and customs officers went over every single item inside the store as well as those in the store room. The tedious process took hours and at the end they were able to seize a large truck filled with regular consumer goods such as Corn Flakes, baby formula, a wide variety of canned items, imported condiments mac and cheese, noodles, juices and yogurts among other items. In the afternoon officers descended on Tan’s Mart one of the largest Chinese stores located on Laguna Drive on Ambergris Caye. Officers conducted the same process by going over all the shelves and storeroom inventory and confiscated any product that had expired in its shelf life. The large quantity of products confiscated in just three stores so far is shining new light into an entire consumer protection aspect of supermarkets and stores in Belize. That is because shop owners especially those on Ambergris Caye have been selling regular consumer goods that have expired as far as 2014. And it is just because of the current operations that the authorities are beginning to see the magnitude of the situation and understanding how long some of the expired products have been on some of the store’s shelves. Local authorities are unable to say what impact the expired items have had if any on the consuming population who have been using the items without carefully checking expiration dates. While officials will not grant interviews they did say that it is alarming and very concerning to them as such they will be conducting continuous operations on the island until consumers can enjoy products that meet market standards. Officials also indicated that more needs to be done during the inspection at the importation level since some of the store owners are importing large amounts of goods into the country that are close to expiring. The only practical advice given at this time is for consumers to carefully look at the expiration date on any items at the store and hope that the owners have not found a way to alter those dates.