FDA, PNRI urged to release list of synthetic vinegar brands

Marje Pelayo   •   May 21, 2019   •   4015

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Agriculture (DA) has urged the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to release the list of vinegar brands that are produced, not from natural fermentation and “biogenic” ingredients but from synthetic acetic acid, citing protection of local vinegar-makers and the safety of consumers.

“I believe that there is simply no legal or moral basis for FDA to withhold the release of the ‘sour condiment’ brands which PNRI (Philippine Nuclear Research Institute) found using non-biogenic acetic acid,” Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol said on his social media account Tuesday (May 21).

The Secretary said: “The release of the names will not only be in compliance with the Consumer Protection laws but also the observance of that very basic provision in the Philippine Constitution which bestows upon every Filipino the Right to Know.”

“The list of the “non-biogenic sour condiments” being passed off as vinegar in the market, whether they are safe for human consumption or not, should be released now,” he added.

The Agriculture Secretary noted the Department of Health’s (DOH) statement that synthetic acetic acid-based vinegar is “not totally unsafe.”

Given that statement, Piñol said agencies concerned agreed that the classification standards for commercial vinegar sold in the market to be changed to “biogenic” for those which use acetic acid produced through a natural fermentation process and “non-biogenic” for those which are made out of synthetic compounds.

Piñol stressed that while vinegar is always understood as a sour-tasting liquid made from natural ingredients and process of fermentation, any other product which offers the “sour” taste but did not go through the natural fermentation process should be properly labeled as synthetic acetic acid or “sour non-biogenic” condiment.”

“Thus, it is my position as Secretary of Agriculture that sour condiments made out of synthetic or non-biogenic acetic acid should not be labeled as “vinegar” or “suka,” he emphasized.

Meanwhile, consumer group Laban Konsyumer expressed its support to the DA in its call for the release of the list of vinegar brands using “non-biogenic” acetic acid given that the PNRI claims that such ingredients do not cause cancer or harm consumers’ health.

The group’s president Atty. Vic Dimagiba also called on the agencies to take responsibility and address the public for the confusion that the issue has caused.

“Dapat din humingi ng paumanhin sa publiko ang PNRI sa maling ulat na galing sa kanila dahil nagdulot ito ng pagkabahala o anxiety sa mga konsyumers,” Dimagiba said.

(The PNRI should make a public apology because of their erroneous report that caused panic or anxiety to consumers.)

“Sa FDA at DOH, ilathala din ang sinabi nilang mislabeling violation ng mga bramds ng suka at recall and patawan ng multa ayon sa Food Safety Law at Consumer Act,” he concluded.

(The FDA and DOH should also publish what they claim as mislabeling violation of these brands of vinegar, recall and fine them according to the Food Safety Law and Consumer Act.) – Marje Pelayo (with details from Rey Pelayo)

DOH advises travelers to receive polio vaccine before leaving, entering PHL

Robie de Guzman   •   October 11, 2019

A Filipino health worker displays polio vaccines inside a government-run health center in Manila, Philippines, 08 October 2019 (issued 11 October 2019). EPA-EFE/FRANCIS R. MALASIG

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Health (DOH) is urging all travelers to get immunized against polio before leaving and entering the Philippines, following a declaration of an outbreak of polio in the country.

In an advisory, the DOH encouraged foreign nationals and returning Filipinos of all ages, who are intending to stay in the Philippines for four weeks and more to receive a single dose of inactivated poliovirus vaccine (IPV) not later than four weeks before their scheduled travel to the Philippines.

This is if the traveler has not received polio vaccination in the last 12 months.

Those embarking on an urgent travel within four weeks are urged to get a single dose of IPV at least by the time of departure as this will still “provide benefits, particularly for frequent travelers.”

The DOH also advised travelers leaving the Philippines to check the immunization requirements of the country they are going to, and if required, receive a dose of IPV before departure.

They are also encouraged to get their International Certificate of Vaccination from the Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ) to serve as proof of their vaccination.

The advisory came weeks after the Philippines declared a type 2 polio outbreak following confirmed cases of vaccine-derived poliovirus.

The first case was a three-year old girl from Lanao del Sur while the second case was a five-year old boy from Laguna. The DOH also said the presence of poliovirus was also detected in collected sewage water samples from Manila and Davao.

The disease re-emerged 19 years after the country was declared polio-free.

Polio is a highly infectious viral disease which spreads rapidly. It can cause paralysis and, on rare occasions, can be fatal.

The DOH said there is no cure for polio and it can only be prevented with multiple doses of polio vaccines that have long been proven safe and effective.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), polio mainly affects children under five years of age, and vaccination is their only and best protection against the highly infectious disease.

But if immunization activities are poorly conducted and too few children have received the required three doses of polio vaccine, the agency said this can leave them “susceptible to poliovirus, either from vaccine-derived or wild polioviruses.”

Although the risk of international spread of polio is low, the WHO said that the of transmission and recirculation of the Polio virus within the Philippines is high due to low population immunity.

The World Health Organization stated that the risk of international spread of Polio is low, however, the risk of transmission and recirculation of the Polio virus within the Philippines is high due to low population immunity.

DOH signs IRR of Universal Health Care Law

Freema Gloria   •   October 10, 2019

Patients receive medical attention inside a hospital in the town of Isulan, Sultan Kudarat province. EPA-EFE/JEOFFREY MAITEM

The Department of Health (DOH) has signed the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of the Universal Health Care Law.

DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III led the signing of the IRR of the UHC law or the Republic Act 11223 which was witnessed by various health sectors.

The said historical event marks the implementation of the UHC law following its publication.

Under the Universal Health Care law, all Filipinos will be automatic members of Philhealth as direct or indirect contributors and will equally benefit from the no balance billing (NBB) once they have been admitted to the hospitals’ basic or ward accommodation.

Secretary Duque stated, the implementation of the said law will be gradual due to budget constraints.

At least P257 billion will be the required fund for its first-year implementation, yet only P167 billion has been approved.

By the year 2020 to 2024, the department will be needing more than P1- trillion fund for the operation of universal health care.

Duque added that the Philhealth premium rates will increase by 0.25% per year from its current 2.75%.

Philhealth, on its part, will consider giving new benefits for those who are paying their contributions which will be different from the beneficiaries of the Universal Health Care Act. — FSG (from the report of Nel Maribojoc)

DOH: Practice good hygiene to prevent meningococcemia

Aileen Cerrudo   •   October 9, 2019

Filipino students practice proper hand washing on the eve of the seventh Global Handwashing day in Manila, the Philippines, 14 October 2015. EPA/RITCHIE B. TONGO

The Department of Health (DOH) has advised the public to practice good hygiene in order to prevent meningococcemia.

DOH Assistant Secretary of the Public Health Services Team Maria Rosario Vergeire has clarified there is still no meningococcemia outbreak in the country after two cases of the disease were confirmed in Laguna and Batangas.

However, Vergeire said early prevention is important to prevent the spread of disease.

“I urge the public to practice good personal hygiene such as regular handwashing, and covering of mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing to prevent the spread of this disease,” she said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the department is still awaiting the results of five more suspected meningococcemia cases that are being examined.

According to Vergeire, meningococcemia is a rare but very serious disease.

She reiterated the importance of early diagnosis and immediate treatment with antibiotics if an individual is experiencing symptoms.

Symptoms of the disease include cough, headache, and sore throat, followed by upper respiratory symptoms, fever, chills, malaise, nausea, vomiting and skin rashes.

“It can quickly progress and manifest with lethargy, difficulty in breathing, neck stiffness, sensitivity to light, seizures, hemorrhagic eruptions, purpuric and petechial skin lesion, and hypotension. In 15% of the cases, death can occur within a few hours,” according to the DOH statement.—AAC

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