Zahle, Lebanon: The Health Ministry’s food safety campaign against violators hit another target over the weekend, closing Taanayel Center, a dairy producer.
The Taanayel Center operating in Zahle was shut down following major health violations, the Health Ministry said Sunday.
The center is not affiliated with Taanayel Les Fermes.
Ministry inspectors were initially prevented from entering the dairy factory, according to the statement.
Considered to be one of the biggest dairy factories in the Bekaa Valley, owned by Rami Abdul-Malak, the place was described as a “disastrous case” by inspectors, prompting Judge Farid Kallas, chief public prosecutor of the Bekaa Valley, to close it down.
The inspectors were also joined by a team from the Economy Ministry’s Consumer Protection Directorate.
Inspectors found expired yeast and artificial flavors, as well as expired and unlabeled preservatives. The butter too did not have an expiry label.
The factory also had a large quantity of kishik believed to have been made using expired dairy products.
The factory’s administration claimed that inspectors only examined the products returned to the factory from supermarkets and shop owners. However, inspectors denied the claim.
According to sources, all kinds of products were examined. The source added that if the factory administration’s claims were true it should be reprimanded for placing factory products next to expired items.
The source added that the inspection team headed over to the factory following a tip that it had been re-packaging expired products and selling them in the open market.
For instance, inspectors were informed that the factory would repackage cheese after scraping moldy surfaces and washing it in salt water, and sometimes using it as a base for shanklish. Accusations that the factory was repacking old labneh also emerged.
“When taking samples we don’t ask the factory owner to choose, we choose them out of many,” the source said. “What we chose [samples], proved that they’re not suitable for consumption.”
The source added that laboratory tests indicated a high percentage of preservatives, which makes things more dangerous. The source also said the samples could poison consumers, especially children and elderly.
Three of five refrigerators inspected revealed expired dairy products and moldy goods.
“One refrigerator had recently produced products, but we found insects and mosquitoes in them,” the source said. A series of rat traps on the floor indicated that the factory also had an infestation problem.
The factory was shut down after inspectors filed a report that Health Minister Wael Abu Faour will refer to the judiciary Monday.
The health minister will also request that charges be pressed against the factory owner.
The source said that the campaign against food safety violators would continue, adding that other factories might be shut down in the next few days.
The campaign began last month, when Abu Faour announced names of restaurants selling contaminated food across the country.
Last week, Economy Minister Alain Hakim ordered six dairy factories in the Bekaa Valley to stop selling labneh, saying the product did not meet health specifications.
© The Daily Star 2014.Dec 2014