In November 2018, the Consumer Protection Directorate of Lebanon has issued a warning informing about the presence of a “carcinogenic substance” in the “kabis” (Lebanese pickles) prepared with turnip.
According to the Consumer Protection Directorate, after conducting a test on various pickles samples obtained from “ten different regions” of Lebanon, it was concluded from all the results that they were “catastrophic” in nature. Moreover, it was revealed that all the samples used in the test showed that they contained Rhodamine B, a chemical food colouring agent which has a ban imposed on it.
Immediately after obtaining such alarming results from testing pickles, the Consumer Protection Directorate notified the Ministries of Health and Industry, whereby urging the latter to look into the issue on the basis of its findings and to probe further into the matter besides ensuring that necessary steps are taken. However, till date, “no action has been taken”.
Previously, the Ministry of Industry had issued warning as to forbid the involvement of “hazardous substances” during pickle manufacturing process. On the other hand, from the time the Directorate report on hazardous substances found in pickles surfaced, the ministry has been keeping a close watch on the matter by “following up on the issue” in an attempt to discover the “source of these substances”, so as to make sure that the pickle manufacturing process adheres to the specified standards.
Furthermore, on September 15, 2017, the Ministry had put out an order to prohibit the use of ingredients in pickles which could be injurious to the consumers’ health. As far as the Health Ministry is concerned, the use of Rhodamine B in Lebanon is not authorized, whereby anyone breaching of the order would mean that the substance has been smuggled illegally into the country.
While, the Ministry added further: “Combating smuggling is the duty of customs authorities and concerned border security and military agencies. The Consumer Protection Directorate is responsible for monitoring the final product that could include the banned substance and others.”
If any violation to the stated order is observed, the matter should be brought into the notice of the “concerned authorities”, in this case the Ministry of Industry, so that proper measures can be taken to “hold the manufacturer accountable”. With further stressed, it was also mentioned that in Lebanon, the Ministry of Economy’s duty also covers responsibility on “ensuring the safety of food products”.
In fact, recently, it was revealed that in the western Asia, Lebanon holds the “highest cancer rate”. “The World Health Organization estimated over 17,000 new cancer cases in 2018 in Lebanon and 242 cancer patients for every 100,000 Lebanese”.