PRICE OF CERTAIN FOOD ITEMS INCREASE WITH APPROACHING FESTIVE SEASON

A survey carried out by CAP over the past few days has shown a significant increase in the price of Red Chilli, Long Beans, Lady’s Finger, Tomato and Beans. The prices have increased from between 20% to 70%.

With Chinese New Year around the corner, the above mentioned items will be in even greater demand. Some retailers even complain that several distributors and wholesalers have warned that prices could go up even further in the next few weeks.

CAP calls on the Enforcement Division of the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs to carry out a crackdown on traders practicing this exorbitant price hike and to take action under Malaysia’s Price Control and Anti-Profiteering Act 2010, otherwise average income earners will be badly affected by escalating prices of goods.

 

Press Statement, 17  January 2020

Authorities need to curb Mat Rempit-ing now

In the early hours of New Year’s Day the police conducted an operation at the Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway in Penang to catch the Mat Rempits going out for their first “joy ride” of 2020. The reported number of Mat Rempits caught and hauled up to the Bayan Lepas police station for processing was in the hundreds. The Consumers’ Association of Penang (CAP) had mixed feelings, as we imagine many others did, upon reading these reports.

This is just one of the many “Mat Rempit” incidences over the years. The police did a good job putting a stop to their activities before they even started; but catching them is not enough. Year after year it is the same thing. Police keep catching them but more Mat Rempits keep appearing. The authorities need to put a stop to Mat Rempits once and for all.

All around the world there are activities that involve groups of people and their motorcycles. For instance there are motorcycle racing and motorcycle clubs. While these activities are not part of our culture, and are a waste of resources with adverse environmental impact, the individuals or groups involved do not make a nuisance of themselves or pose a danger to the public.

Mat Rempit-ing on the other hand is something else entirely. Mat Rempits display illegal road behaviour that endangers not only themselves but everyone else around them; and many Mat Rempits have hoodlum attitudes. This kind of behaviour and conduct is extremely unacceptable.

The reasons why people keep “becoming” Mat Rempits is because it is easy and they can get away with it most of the time.

To curb the Mat Rempit culture the authorities should ban Mat Rempit-ing individuals from getting any kind of road vehicle license for an extended period of time. Some may argue that this is useless since many Mat Rempits actually do not have bike riding license; however the point is to blacklist them.

Secondly, once these individuals have been blacklisted they should be sent for mandatory civic rehabilitation to change their Mat Rempit behaviour.

We ask that the authorities start taking serious proactive measures against Mat Rempits. The authorities must take both preventive and corrective action Mat Rempit-ing is to ever be curbed. The government should commission a study on why many youths resort to Mat Rempit-ing and take appropriate measures to eliminate this social disease.

 

Letter to the Editor, 13 January 2020

Stop splurging public’s money to gratify smokers

The government should not bow to the demands of smokers calling for smoking corners to be set up. The priority should be focused on non-smokers who equally pay taxes.

The expenditure on constructing smoking zones are for 22.8 per cent of the population who are smokers. As the proponents of smokers’ rights call for respecting of their rights, they are silent on the rights of non-smokers who are forced to inhale their toxic cigarette smoke.

MoH has estimated that the government will be spending RM7.4 billion on treatment cost for major illnesses caused by smoking by 2025. This amount wipes out tobacco tax that smokers are paying which could have been put to better use.

Putting the argument into proper perspective, colorectal cancer was the most common cancer followed by lung cancer in men aged 25 years and above. Not surprisingly smoking has been found to be responsible for 80 to 90 per cent of lung cancer cases. There is a total of 11,256 cases of trachea, bronchus and lung cancers registered for the period between 2012 and 2016.

Smokers’ rights proponents and tobacco industry supporters are strangely silent on the cost of treatment of cancers, many of them associated with smoking. Below is the estimated cost of treatment of some of the cancers in 2018, without considering the employment of caregiver and other miscellaneous expenditures:

· Breast cancer: up to RM395,000

· Colorectal cancer: up to RM85,000

· Lung cancer (including trachea & bronchus): up to RM56,000

· Lymphoma cancer: up to RM95,000

· Nasopharynx cancer: up to RM70,000

As for the link between smoking and smoking-related diseases and the damaging health effects on passive smokers, there are 30 volumes of US Surgeon General’s Reports and publications on smoking comprising tens of thousands of peer-reviewed studies published since 1964.

In 1992, an actor asked a R.J. Reynolds executive why he does not smoke and his reply was: “We don’t smoke that s***. We just sell it. We just reserve the right to smoke for the young, the poor, the black and the stupid.” This unadulterated quotation is from a tobacco industry representative himself.

In 1998, a shop manager in Kuala Lumpur commented about Benson & Hedges’ promotion of new ranges of coffee products under the cigarette brand names, “Of course this is all about keeping the Benson and Hedges brand name to the front. We advertise the Benson and Hedges Bistro on television and in the newspapers. The idea is to be smoker-friendly. Smokers associate a coffee with a cigarette. They are both drugs of a type.”

Smoker rights activists and pro-smoker rights policy makers are proving the tobacco industry’s perception of smokers as being stupid is correct. It was estimated that 14.6 per cent of smokers in Malaysia attained less than primary education; 20.2 per cent, primary education; 25.2 per cent, lower/upper secondary education; and 14.3 per cent, college or above. In other words, 34.8 per cent of smokers did not even complete their primary education.

We call upon the government to let good sense prevail and not use tax payers’ money to build sheds for smokers. The expenditure to pander to the smokers’ whims and fancies are non-justifiable at all.

 

Press Statement, 10 January 2020

CAP: How safe are Malaysian prawns?

The Consumers Association of Penang is appalled by the statement made by the Deputy Agriculture and Agro-based Industries Minister Sim Tze Tsin that Malaysian farmed prawns are safe for consumption.

According to his Facebook “The Department of Fisheries has a stringent monitoring system against all shrimp farms across the country.”Regular checks and enforcement are done to ensure Malaysian food safety and export quality”

Sim was commenting on the news reports by The Star which claimed that the US Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) had blacklisted some Malaysian prawn exporters due to excess antibiotics – especially nitrofuran and chloramphenicol – found in samples.

However, Sim said most of the companies listed by the USFDA were mostly involved in the transhipment of prawns which originate from other countries. He pointed out that the reports by The Star cited USFDA data from 2009 to 2018.

Given the above situation the Ministry of Agriculture and Agro-based Industries should investigate why nitrofuran and chloramphenicol are still available in the country as of 2018 as it is a banned item.

In 2016, Malaysian prawns, mostly from Penang aquaculture farms, were also rejected  by the US government due to the presence of nitrofuran and chloramphenicol.

It is strange that within a period of a year the prawn farms in the country have switched to using safer alternatives that rendered the prawns to be safe for consumption.

It is a known fact that chemicals are used extensively in prawns farming. Among the chemicals used   include fertilizers, disinfectants, coagulants, liming materials, feed additives (e.g. steroid hormones, probiotics, feed attractants), vitamins, and antibiotics (e.g. sulfonamides, tetracyclines, quinolones, nitrofurans, and chloramphenicol).  Nitrofurans, and chloramphenicol for use on farms are banned in Malaysia.

Most consumers think of prawns  as coming from the sea – they are harvested by trawlers, brought to shore and then packed for distribution to restaurants, supermarkets, and other retailers. But these days, most of the prawns in the market are farmed. Many consumers are not aware that prawn farming is associated with mangrove destruction, water pollution, illegal aquaculture and unethical labour practices.

During a survey by CAP, we found that antibiotics are routinely used in the farms as prawns are vulnerable to diseases. At times it was necessary to harvest the prawns earlier to avoid losses as the medication used to treat the sick prawns had failed. In this situation consumers would be getting prawns with high chemical residues as the chemicals would not have worn out during the short period of time.

According to reports, prawn farming is a massive industry located largely in the coastal part of our country. As the demand for farmed prawns has increased, the industry has proliferated and the use of chemicals has intensified.

Intensively-farmed prawn ponds are often abandoned after 2 to 10 years due to environmental problems caused by the accumulation of waste, reduced access to clean water resulting in lower yields and economic losses.

Prawn farming pollution takes a big toll on the environment, for example many types of pesticides are used to kill fish and molluscs before stocking the ponds, whilst other chemicals are added to pond water to control bacterial and fungal infections and parasitic worms. These pesticides and chemicals pose threats to our health and the environment.

The effects of these chemicals on the wider environment are largely unknown because their use in prawn farming is poorly-regulated and monitored. Some of the pesticides used in prawn farming are very highly toxic to fish and other aquatic organisms. This is of grave concern given the widespread discharge of untreated prawn farm effluent into surrounding waters.

It takes approximately 3-6 months to raise market-sized prawns, with many farmers practicing  2-3  harvest per year. A steady stream of organic waste, chemicals and antibiotics from these farms can pollute groundwater and coastal estuaries. Chemical residues from the ponds can also seep into the groundwater and onto agricultural land affecting fresh water supply and making lands useless for agriculture. Aquaculture destroys the hydrological system that provides the foundation of wetland ecosystems.

Some chemicals used in prawn farming, such as organotin compounds, copper and other compounds with a high affinity to sediments leave persistent, toxic residues, and are likely to have a negative long- term impact on the environment.

Further effects on non-target organisms may occur as a consequence of the tendency of some of these pesticides to bio-accumulate in fish and marine invertebrates, thus posing threats to organisms higher up the food chain including humans.

Prawns farms have physically blocked access of small fishermen to traditional coastal resources and, with mangrove forests cleared to create ponds for aquaculture-fish and shell-fish catches have declined.

In view of the high demand for prawns with the coming of Chinese New Year,  CAP calls on the Ministry of Agriculture and Agro-based Industries to test the prawns in the market for the presence of  toxic chemicals.

Meanwhile CAP advise consumers to think twice before eating prawns, they should think about the antibiotics and chemical residues that they have, also about how eating prawns may cause destruction to our mangroves and the loss of livelihood of our small fishermen. The destruction stops when the eating stops.

 

Press Statement, 9 January 2020

Need to stop the mistreatment of fish kept as pets

Disturbing pictures of betta fish bred in unacceptable breeding conditions in massive farms in Thailand exposes the dark side of the pet fish industry.  Much in demand for their bright colours and beautiful fins, fish, unlike dogs and other furry and feathered pets, do not develop separation anxiety or destructive behaviours when left alone; they are completely silent, not a sound, ever.

People keeping fish as pets have no thought for their wellbeing and are indifferent to how much pain and suffering the fish endure before ending up on display.  Often regarded as non-beings they are sold as commodities, kept in unsuitable ways and in unsuitable places, and suffering distress and physical abuse in plastic bags, bottles or featureless tanks.

The exposure of the filth, suffering, and widespread neglect of bettas in Thai fish farms by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is truly an eye opener.   These sensitive fish suffer greatly in the pet trade where they suffer from the time they are born on breeding farms to their destination at the pet stores.

PETA’s investigations of the pet fish industry in South East Asia and Thailand, one of the top global exporters, have uncovered appalling neglect of betta fish and extreme suffering. PETA eye-witness found rotting fish in breeding tanks and others suffocating or wounded. Those that died were tossed on the floor to rot while the injured were released in a waste pond. Inside the breeding factories, thousands of fish were then individually isolated and put into bottles and packed together tightly. They are then tranquilized so that the fish do not eat their own tails and transported without food for days. Industry insiders have confirmed that this system is common practice for retailers.

Fish are cruelly transported from dealers to pet stores without enough water to keep bodies submerged or in plastic cups containing a couple of inches of water. The reason being Asian suppliers try to reduce the volume of water with their animals to save on shipping costs to appease US wholesalers and suppliers.

In many Malaysian homes, fish are often kept in small tanks, jars and bottles. This becomes a serious welfare problem for a number of reasons. Firstly, the water will rapidly become toxic as the available oxygen is quickly consumed and ammonia accumulates from the fish’s waste. Small tanks and bottles do not provide sufficient space for exercise or behavioural stimulation, both of which are fundamental in providing a healthy and stress-free environment. Aquariums are often left in a neglected state with fish suffocating due to faulty pumps and a buildup of algae.

People who buy fish (or any animals!) from pet stores are supporting a heartless business that treats animals like toys or inanimate objects.

The pet and aquarium industry must take action to resolve these issues immediately, or simply stop the sale of these unique creatures. They have a responsibility to educate the public on the proper care of fish and lead by example. This includes stopping the sale of inappropriate tanks/housing and keeping betta fish in plastic bags and bottles.

 

Letter to Editor, 9 January 2020