By Chito Chavez
Alarmed with the possible health risks, environmental group EcoWaste Coalition asked the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Department of Health (DoH) to form a “Vinegar Safety Committee” with reports that showed eight of the 10 vinegar brands sold in the market are “fake’’ as they are made from synthetic instead of natural sources.
The EcoWaste Coalition invoked Republic Act 10611, or the Food Safety Act of 2013, in justifying the formation of the “Vinegar Safety Committee” in order to assure the public that “fake” vinegar products are immediately pulled out from store shelves and not consumed.
The proposal was made following studies on over 360 vinegar samples by researchers at the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (PNRI), an attached agency of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), that found 8 out of 10 samples, using isotope-based analytical techniques, are made from synthetic acetic acid.
Acetic acid, according to its material safety data sheet, “is highly corrosive to the skin and eyes and can also be damaging to the internal organs if ingested or in the case of vapor inhalation.”
“Vinegar is undoubtedly a favorite Filipino condiment for dips, sauces and dishes or as a preservative for pickled fruits and vegetables. It’s very important for the government and the food industry to assure consumers that vinegar sold in the market is safe from substances that can make them sick,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.
“In line with the goals of RA 10611, we urge lead agencies in charge of ensuring food safety to create a Vinegar Safety Committee to address the shocking findings of PNRI studies,” he added.
While new standards for vinegar are being developed, Dizon said it is “necessary for the DOH through the Food and Drug Administration to issue a public health warning and to cause the removal from the market of ‘fake’ vinegar products that pose direct risk to human health’’.
The group’s suggested action echoes the position of DA Secretary Emmanuel Piñol who earlier suggested through his recent Facebook post that “a market advisory should be issued and the brands using acetic acid must be pulled out of the market.”
The requested action, the EcoWaste Coalition said, will promote “food safety,” which, according to RA 10611, refers to the assurance that food will not cause harm to the consumer when it is prepared or eaten according to its intended use.
Section 37 of RA 10611 prohibits the production, importation, distribution and sale of food products that are not in conformity with food quality or safety standards, including adulterated, misbranded, mislabeled and falsely advertised food products.