Authorities to beef up hunt for expired goods on shelves
The National Compliance and Regulatory Authority (NCRA) says it has embarked on a raft of internal reforms to bolster its clampdown on shady supermarkets and store operators who display unfit and expired goods for sale to consumers.
The announcement followed a Sunday Gleaner probe which revealed that large containers of expired and damaged chocolates, cornflakes, canned foods and biscuits were being sold at cut-price deals at establishments in Half-Way Tree, St Andrew, and Portmore in St Catherine.
Expired goods were also being sold openly in the Coronation Market and at stalls in downtown Kingston and, following the report, the NCRA and related entities came under heavy criticisms from members of the public, who listed other areas where expired goods were being sold in open view.
“The NCRA takes its role in the preservation of the health and safety of all Jamaican citizens very seriously and is currently undertaking several structural and capacity-building reforms to improve the efficiency with which it carries out its core responsibilities,” said the organisation last Friday, in response to questions posed by this newspaper two weeks ago.
“The improvements include a significant expansion of the team of certified inspectors, an increase in the numbers of inspections carried out at establishments per quarter, and greater coordination with related entities,” the NCRA explained, adding that it will be embarking on a public sensitisation campaign soon.
The entity acknowledged last Friday, however, that a rapidly expanding market has resulted in some establishments being overlooked, and that it does not capture data on the value of items removed from store shelves in the more than 900 compliance checks it carries out in the domestic market each quarter.
“Given the rapid pace of expansion of retail and wholesale commerce locally, we have faced some challenges in regulating the constantly expanding number of establishments,” explained NCRA CEO Lorice Edwards-Brown.
“Additionally, there are many instances where establishments seemingly comply with our directions only to revert to unacceptable practices after inspection,” continued Edwards-Brown, who urged the public to report breaches to the Consumer Affairs Commission (CAC), which is then mandated to contact the NCRA.
Edwards-Brown could not say how many of those reports have been passed on by the CAC, and remained mum on whether the NCRA supported a call by the Bureau of Standards (BSJ) for stricter sanctions against store owners who knowingly display or ‘marry’ expired goods for sale.
While two of the major supermarket chains previously probed had seemingly removed the expired items from their store shelves last week, one store previously visited in Cedar Plaza on Passage Fort Drive, St Catherine, remained stacked with tins of damaged, rusted and expired goods for sale for the Christmas season.
Edwards-Brown said NCRA inspectors would be dispatched to the locations visited by The Sunday Gleaner before Christmas Eve.