Egypt's Health Minister denies rumours that onions were released without tests

Health Minister Driamal Al-Harbi denied yesterday rumours that the Public Authority for Food and Nutrition released imported Egyptian agricultural products that were not checked by the supreme committee for food safety.

The ministry will not release these products unless it receives health and pesticide free certificates by laboratories and after a three month period of intense monitoring of the products, Harbi told reporters. 

The ministry is currently investigating the companies that imported these agricultural products, he noted, adding that necessary procedures against them will be carried out soon. 

Harbi's comments came after MP Riyadh Al-Adsani warned the supreme committee for food safety and concerned ministries not to allow selling onions or any other food items without examining them to make sure they are safe for human consumption. 

Adsani added he will file parliamentary inquiries requesting the results of tests of the produce offered for sale in local markets, bearing in mind that local labs are incapable of handling the quantities the government announced pumping into the market. 

He also demanded declaring the results of tests of the recently-imported tons of onions, stressing that they should be immediately withdrawn from the market if they had not been examined. "Fighting unjustified price hikes is mandatory, but people's health is more important", he warned. 

Media activist Jalal Al-Shemmari also wondered about the issue and inquired who had allowed Egyptian onions into the country despite an embargo on importing them, without even examining the shipments. 

Harbi told reporters that the supreme committee for food safety includes the membership of a number of major state bodies such as the foreign, commerce and health ministries. It also includes membership of the Municipality, Public Authority for Industry, the Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research, the Environment Public Authority, the Kuwait General Administration of Customs and the Union of Kuwaiti Food Traders and Manufacturers. 

The committee aims to establish health requirements for food in order to protect food security and preserve public health through securing food products valid for human consumption, Harbi said. He also indicated that the committee has not made any amendments to the current requirements regarding some Egyptian agricultural products. 

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