FDA, PNRI urged to release list of synthetic vinegar brands

Marje Pelayo   •   May 21, 2019   •   4338

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)

Deployment of Barrio Doctors to Cebu City now voluntary – DOH

Marje Pelayo   •   June 30, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Health (DOH) has changed its decision of mandatory deployment of barrio doctors to Cebu City, the new epicenter of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), following opposition to its planned augmentation of healthcare workers to the city.

On Monday (June 30), the DOH Region 6 in Western Visayas issued an order temporarily suspending the deployment of 40 rural doctors to the virus-stricken city.

 The Regional Office maintained it will not lift the suspension unless concerns and issues raised by the healthcare workers and stakeholders are settled.

The DOH confirmed the action of its Regional Office in Western Visayas thus it decided to commission barrio doctors who will be sent to private hospitals in Cebu City on a voluntary basis after discussions with other DOH Regional Offices and hospital management in Western and Central Visayas. 

“Meron naman tayong ipapadala kaya lang hindi na iyong nailista namin na pangalan. Voluntary na iyong magiging proseso [We will be deploying a team but not those who we previously listed. The process will now be voluntary],” confirmed DOH Undersecretary and Spokesperson Maria Rosario Vergeire.

“So among all of these DTTBs (Doctors to the Barrios) who are willing and amenable to these types of arrangements they are the ones who are going to be deployed to Region 7,” she added.

The DOH clarified that the main tasks of the augmentation force do not include surgery and other critical care functions that are assigned to resident doctors in Cebu.

Hindi sila ilalagay sa mga areas na like operating rooms. Iyong mga may specialization na kailangan [They will not be assigned in areas like operating rooms but only those who have the needed specialization],” Vergeire explained.

“They would be supplemental to the Triage area. Sa mga outpatient units doon sila ilalagay [They will be assigned in the outpatient units],” she added.

Deployment of rural doctors or those under the ‘Doctor of the Barrios’ will be every two weeks.

They will be given two week rest every time they return to their localities to complete the required quarantine period. MNP (with reports from Aiko Miguel)

DOH deploys 15 doctors to Cebu City

Aileen Cerrudo   •   June 29, 2020

The Department of Health (DOH) deployed 15 doctors to Cebu City under their Doctors to the Barrio (DTTB) Program on Monday (June 29).

During an interview on ‘Get it Straight with Daniel Razon’, DOH Region 7 Spokesperson Dr. Jean Loreche assured that the doctors will receive proper training and compensation.

“Right now we have in our list six doctors to the barrios, dalawa ang deputized physicians natin. Mayroon po tayong from the AFP [Armed Forces of the Philippines] na seven po na ipapadala po nila from Luzon to be able to augment manpower here in Cebu City, she said.

The DTTB earlier slammed the DOH for its “abrupt exploitative order” in deploying doctors to Cebu City, saying the doctors were not properly informed about the situation.

“The DTTBs and the local chief executives should have been represented in decision-making involving this temporary reassignment. Failing to do so makes such directives exploitative for doctors and inconsiderate for the communities that they serve. There is complete disregard to the concerns of the doctors and the local chief executives,” the DTTB said in a statement on Sunday (June 28).

The DOH, meanwhile, defended that the the temporary deployment of doctors will help address the overwhelmed capacity of private hospitals in Cebu City.

“Cebu City’s health care system is overwhelmed with patient load at the moment,” according to the DOH statement on Monday.

Loreche, however, reported that the region’s health care system can still manage the surge of cases in Cebu City, contrary to the report of the DOH Central Office.

The DOH Region 7 official also reiterated that the surge of cases is due to the categorized testing they conducted last May where 45,000 residents underwent COVID-19 testing.

“So ito pong mga numero na nakikita natin ngayon dito sa Cebu City, ito lang po ay a reflection of the zero prevalence data na ginawa namin,” Loreche said.

The DOH Central earlier reported that the critical care utilization in Cebu City has already reached critical level which prompted the deployment of rural doctors to the area.

There are currently over 5,700 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Cebu City. AAC (with reports from Aiko Miguel)

DOH targets to reach 1 million COVID-19 tests until end of July

Aileen Cerrudo   •   June 29, 2020

The Department of Health (DOH) is targeting to reach one million coronavirus disease (COVID-19) tests by the end of July, amid the surge of confirmed cases in the country.

The Health Department has already conducted over 675,485 COVID-19 tests since the outbreak. The department also reported 69 licensed testing laboratories in the country.

DOH Spokesperson Usec. Rosario Vergeire said they are confident of reaching the one million target.

“We are seeing na ma-attain natin itong one million na ito pagdating ng end of July (We are seeing that we can attain one million by the end of July) because as of now, we already have about 600,000 plus na nate-test na po sa buong Pilipinas mula nung nag umpisa tayo mag-test, (600,000 plus people have already been tested in the Philippines since we began conducting COVID-19 testing),” she said.

The national government previously said it is targeting to test around two percent or almost two million of the total population.

Meanwhile, the DOH has already announced that they will expand the COVID-19 testing in the country. This will include other subgroups such as medical frontliners, barangay health workers, personnel at the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP), persons deprived of liberty (PDL), and sick patients.

As of Sunday (June 29), the DOH reported 35,455 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country with 9,686 recoveries. Death toll, meanwhile, is at 1,244. AAC (with reports from Aiko Miguel)

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