From crisis to crisis: Ministers trade barbs over wheat safety

by George Fakhry

18 March 2016 | 19:19

Source: by Annahar

  • by George Fakhry
  • Source: Annahar
  • Last update: 18 March 2016 | 19:19

In this photo Health Minister Wael Abu Faour is seen examining wheat packs found at the Beirut Port. (Annahar Photo)

BEIRUT: The Economy and Health Ministries sparred for the third consecutive day over the safety of imported wheat, which, according to the management authority for silos at Beirut Port, enters the country after obtaining clearance from the Agriculture Ministry.

"The Ministry of Agriculture is solely responsible for taking health precautions... including testing wheat samples before granting approval for any products to enter the market... after making sure that analysis results meet the standards," read a statement by the management authority for silos at Beirut Port.

The Economy Ministry on Friday refuted claims by Health Minister Wael Abu Faour who said some wheat shipments that entered Lebanon contained high levels of a carcinogenic substance.

In a statement released by his office, Economy Minister Alain Hakim assured the public that the quality of wheat in Lebanon meets the required standards.

"Even though the Agriculture Ministry is in charge of monitoring imports... the Economy Ministry immediately tested 13 samples of wheat from silos at [Beirut] port... and found that the samples conformed with adopted standards," a statement by the Economy Ministry said.

On Thursday, Hakim traded jabs with Faour who announced Wednesday that 31 samples of wheat his ministry took contained the food contaminant ochratoxin.

In excess amounts, Ochratoxin is considered a probable carcinogen. It is also known to cause Alzheimer's disease.

"I have contacted the ministers of economy and finance and asked them to instruct [Lebanese] Custom authorities not to allow wheat shipments into the market before conducting proper ochratoxin examination," Abu Faour told a news conference Feb. 16, 2016.

Faour said that samples from US-imported wheat were found to be in full compliance with Lebanese standards whereas samples taken from Russia-imported wheat contained higher than permitted levels of ochratoxin.

The management authority for silos at Beirut Port, however, said it hasn't received a shipment of American wheat in at least two years.

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