A press release from the Ministry of Works sent out on Monday, November 23, indicated that the Belize Bureau of Standardsí ongoing market surveillance, as well as based on complaints received via its consumer protection hotline, shows that there is an urgent need to address issues affecting consumers, in particular that of the sale of expired goods and the overall quality of non-perishables offered for sale in the domestic market.
In an effort to strengthen collaborating efforts in protecting consumer interests, the Belize Bureau of Standards met with key partners which include the Ministry of Labor, Local Government and Rural Development and the Mayorís Association of Belize. The objective of the meeting was to identify specific measures that could be implemented in each municipality to effectively monitor the market, ensuring consumer health and safety is maintained in the consumption of goods at all levels.
It is no surprise to find quite a number of expired products on the shelves of some stores on the island, but the problem is that the situation is not being rectified which has allowed these shop owners to put the health of consumers at risk without any repercussions.
Many local businesses in the island have the tendency of selling expired products at half price or simply removing the expiration date and selling it for the regular price. Businesses should be aware that it is an offense to break the laws under Chapter 31 of the Public Laws of Belize, to have on sale unwholesome food for public consumption. Businesses are taken to court when problems of this nature persist or when the offense is repetitive.
The press release states that the Bureau, along with other key stakeholders (representatives of the Ministry of Health, NAVCO, General Sales Tax, Office of the Solicitor General, the Customs Department and the Belize Chamber of Commerce) will meet on December 1, to formalize a Memorandum of Understanding that will effectively safeguard the interest of consumers.
The general public is asked to be aware of what they are purchasing and to read the label of the products and check the expiration date.
Guidelines on how long some food products are good.
* Refrigerated steaks and roasts should be used within three to four days after purchase.
* Ground meats, fresh poultry and raw fish should be used within one to two days after purchase.
* Milk, cream, cottage cheese and cream cheese are good for a week after opening.
* Hard cheeses that are tightly wrapped are good for two to three months.
* Eggs are good for three to four weeks. Keep them refrigerated.
* Cooked or uncooked vegetables are good in the refrigerator for three to five days.
* Bread, cake and cookies (or anything made from a batter with yeast or wheat) should be used within a week to avoid mold.
* Baked goods will last longer (two weeks) if refrigerated.
* Leftover chicken, gravy, sauce, chicken or tuna salads and turkey pies are only good for one to two days.
* Mustard, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce and other condiments should be used within a year of opening the container.
* Mayonnaise, once opened, is good for two months.
* Open bottles of salad dressing are good for three months.
* Ketchup, jams, jelly and peanut butter are good for six months. If you cannot remember when a food was placed in the refrigerator, throw it out.
Many people do keep their food longer than the above guidelines. If you keep your food longer, make sure you check it each time to see that it has not turned moldy, slimy, stinky, rancid or otherwise rotten. Always check the food BEFORE you taste it.