Saudi Arabia: Warning Issued About Baby Food

M Ghazanfar Ali Khan / Arab News
Riyadh, Jul 28:
Saudi Arabia has issued a warning against the consumption of a particular variety of Heinz baby food and has asked the relevant government agencies to pull the product from the shelves.

The warning was issued by the Saudi Food & Drug Authority (SFDA) here on Monday after a nine-month-old boy was found nearly choked to death after swallowing a piece of plastic from this baby food formula in the United Kingdom recently.

“In fact, food giant Heinz has also issued a statement and recalled the Heinz’s ‘Mum’s Own Recipe Spaghetti Bolognese’ product as a precautionary measure,” said SFDA spokesman Abdul Mohsen H. Al-Rohaimi.

Al-Rohaimi added that SFDA personnel have been combing local stores and supermarkets to remove the products from the shelves as part of a preventive measure. “A certain consignment of Heinz baby food products with British origin, bearing expiry date of Novem-ber 2010 and mainly distributed in the UK, was contaminated.”

Other Heinz products are safe, added the SFDA official. He said that the warning about the presence of the plastic parts that may cause blockage in the throat of infants has also been posted on the SFDA website. He, however, could not say whether some products had been confiscated from the Saudi market so far.

Heinz had also confirmed that it was taking the precautionary measure of recalling part of an isolated batch of the particular baby food product as a precaution. “We have recalled the products,” said a press statement issued by the company. Heinz, whose products enjoy very substantial market shares in more than 50 countries including Saudi Arabia, sells 650 million bottles of its iconic ketchup every year.

The statement said that Heinz was carrying out a full investigation of the incident to ensure that the problem does not recur. It also apologized for any inconvenience caused to customers.

This is the second case of food contamination reported in the Kingdom in a fortnight. The SFDA also stopped the sale of Nestle dough products at all stores and restaurants across the Kingdom due to a possible e coli contamination early this month. The move by SFDA follows the recent outbreak in the US, where Nestle USA voluntarily recalled its Toll House refrigerated cookie dough products after those who ate the raw product became ill.

Regarding the Toll House cookie dough recall, Al-Rohaimi said the products had already been withdrawn and there should be no cause for concern. Immediately after the recall last month in the US, Nestle Middle East notified all local government departments across the GCC of the possible contamination. E coli had not been identified in any Nestle products, but the company had issued a voluntary recall as a precaution in cooperation with the local government agencies in the Middle East including the Kingdom.

The SFDA, which is an apex Saudi government’s agency, has the mandate to ensure safety of food and drugs for man and animals. It also monitors the safety of biological and chemical substance as well as electronic products.

The SFDA serves as a regulatory authority for food imports, drugs, medical devices, and as an agency for mandatory standard specifications; whether they are imported or locally manufactured. It is also entrusted with the task to generate consumer awareness on all matters related to food, drug and medical devices.

Heinz is a $10 billion US-based company with a substantial presence in the UK that has been exporting various products to the Gulf states.


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