By Atom Markarian
The Armenian government proposed on Thursday a major toughening of the presently lax controls of the safety of domestic and imported food products which will be discussed by parliament later this year.
Ministers approved a set of draft amendments to Armenia’s law on food safety that envisage stricter quality and packaging requirements. Importers and domestic manufacturers would have to put healthy warnings and put additional information about food ingredients on the packaging of their products.
The government also wants all foreign food labels to carry the information in the Armenian language. The provision would take effect three months after the passage of the amendments.
Officials admitted that the existing mechanisms for protecting consumers against health hazards are inadequate and poorly enforced. The Armenian market is believed to be flooded with low-quality foodstuffs and beverages that do not meet the existing health standards but attract buyers with their low price. Government corruption and poverty are seen as the principal cause of the problem.
“There is a problem in the country because things are not under control,” said Mikael Grigorian, head of the food safety department at Armenia’s Ministry of Agriculture. He said failure to comply with the new regulations would lead to heavy fines and sales bans.
Armenian officials claim that the low-quality food products are mostly of dubious foreign origin. However, a recent inspection by the Armenian Health Ministry found a widespread non-compliance with the safety requirements by the domestic agribusiness sector which has expanded substantially in the last few years.
According to the “Ayb-Fe” weekly, this is the reason why a major agribusiness fair in Yerevan scheduled for last July was postponed indefinitely. The paper revealed this week that only four out of three dozen Armenian food processing and beverage companies that intended to participate in the exhibition met the quality standards.