Food authority fears tainted apples in Maldives

The Maldives Food and Drug Authority (MFDA) has announced that apples of the Granny Smith variety feared to have been tainted with listeria monocytogenes bacteria have been found in the Maldives.

A statement released this morning said, however, that the authority has so far been unable to determine whether the apples found have been supplied from the California-based Bidart Bros of Bakersfield, from which the tainted apples are believed to have originated.

“Although we have found Granny Smith apples from California, it does not necessarily mean they will be contain the bacteria. But until we confirm that the apples are safe, we recommend the public to not consume them,” said spokeswoman Sajidha said.

Bidart Bros issued a full recall the Gala and Granny Smith apples after the US Food and Drug Administration traced a listeria outbreak to the firm earlier this month.

“Consumers should not eat the Granny Smith and Gala apples being recalled by Bidart Bros. These apples can be sold under the brand names ‘Big B’ and ‘Granny’s Best’, though, they could also be sold under other brand names or with no brand at all,” read a January 9 statement from the company.

The MFDA explained that microbiological tests are being conducted to determine whether the apples contain any traces of the bacteria and informed “all parties not to sell these types of apples until it is determined to be safe”.

“We took samples last night and tests will be carried out today. As this is a microbiological test, it will take at least 3 to 4 days for us to get the results,” said Sajidha.

She also explained that bacteria which causes a range of symptoms including fever, vomiting, diarrhoea, and stiffness of the neck and muscles – is especially dangerous to vulnerable groups, including pregnant women, cancer patients, children, and the elderly.

“The initial cases of listeria monocytogenes in America because of the apples resulted in fatalities,” Sajidha warned.

On Tuesday (January 27), the MFDA sent out a food alert warning consumers to exercise caution with regards to Gala and Granny smith type of apples imported from Bidart Bros.

Indonesia and Vietnam are reported to have halted apple imports from the company after International Food Safety Authorities Network issued an alert on January 17.


Preventive medicine is better than cure, says President on decentralising health sector

Decentralising public health services will promote preventative medicine in the Maldives, President Mohamed Nasheed said today announcing that the health sector would be the first to be decentralised.

”We always hear that this hospital is lacking this machine, or that hospital is lacking doctors, or complaints that islanders cannot access adequate health facilities,” said Nasheed. ”This government’s objective is to prevent people from falling ill, because prevention is better than cure.”

At a press conference today, Nasheed said the government was trying to organise the health sector in a way that newly-elected island councilors could supervise the health sector of each island.

”We want to make sure that all persons that require special assistance are provided with that special assistance,” he said.

Islanders in at least one division have already expressed concern that many of the elected councilors were not capable of handling positions of responsibility.

One islander from the central region of the Maldives recently told Minivan News that on his island, only two of the five elected councilors had finished their GCE O’Levels.

”Because they ran as candidates for the seats under different parties, supporters of those parties have voted for them for the sake of promoting their party,” he said. ”Votes were not made with consideration for how educated the candidate is, or how capable the person, just by what political party he belongs to.”

At this morning’s press conference, Nasheed said that ministers and senior government officials from different areas including the health ministry had begun visiting different islands to conduct workshops and to provide information to the new councilors about their role in decentralising the health sector.

Addressing the concerns of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) regarding the cost of the new layer of government, expressed in a recent notice published at the conclusion of the organisation’s Article IV consultation with the Maldives, Nasheed acknowledged that “the short-term cost [of decentralisation] is likely to be high.”

The salaries alone for the island and atoll councils are expected to cost the Maldivian state an extra Rf173 million (US$13.5 million) a year, on top of the country’s 21-22 percent budget deficit.

“Although the short-term cost is high, it should be obvious to the IMF and other donors that in the long term decentralisation will reduce costs,” Nasheed said.

There was, he said, a public appetite to decentralise, which was “a cornerstone pledge” of most political parties in the country.

“It is very obvious to the government that providing services at a local level is cheaper than centrally-imposed services [with disregard] for local conditions. All over the world decentralisation is expensive to start, but highly cost efficient when it starts running.”

Nasheed also sent his condolences to the mother and family of the child who recently died during labour, forcing doctors to resort to surgery to save the mother’s life.

“We can’t say this is something that should happen, or something that we can say is right,” Nasheed said.

There was bill on medical negligence pending in parliament, he added.