KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 12 – ENFORCEMENT authorities will have more bite when taking action against culprits who manipulate the food and pharmaceutical regulatory system, once a new law comes into force.
The New Pharmacy Bill will push for more severe punishments by slapping lawbreakers with a penalty 10 times more than the existing one, and a longer jail term.
Health Ministry Pharmaceutical Services Division deputy director Mazlan Ismail said cases involving adulteration of food products with poison came under the Poison Act 1952, which, he said, had little to no impact on offenders.
The maximum penalty under the Poison Act is RM3,000. The act carries a maximum of three years’ jail upon conviction, but many offenders were slapped with only a one-month jail term.
“There are cases where those found guilty were fined only RM300 by the court. That is nothing compared with what they are earning on a daily basis. “We acknowledge that these penalties are far too low and we are drafting a new law.
“Hopefully with this law, we can address these loopholes,” Mazlan told the New Straits Times.
However, he said, it was uncertain when the bill could be tabled in Parliament as it was being finalised by the Attorney-General’s Chambers (A-GC).
The new law, he said, would be merged with the Poison Act, Sale of Drugs Act 1952 and Registration of Pharmacist Act 1951.
He said the move would not only address the problem of adulteration of food and beverage products, but also other issues, such as expired drugs, fake medicine and selling of unregistered medicine.
“With the new bill, we hope the maximum fine will increase tenfold. For offences mentioned in the Poison Act, the penalty of RM3,000 will be increased to RM30,000, while for the Sale of Drugs Act, it will be RM25,000.
“We are fighting for a minimum fine to be included in the amendment, but the A-GC has stated its disagreement to this.
“The reason behind it is that it might give little leeway for judges to use their discretion.
“Hopefully, everything turns out for the best. The priority here is for the law to be a deterrent and stop these unethical activities.”
Mazlan said this in response to NST’s exposé on adulterated beverages, such as Kopi Kuat — coffee laced with sildenafil (an active ingredient in Viagra) — which were previously banned but continued to have a strong market presence.
Among the famous “brand names” that have been banned are Kopi Panggung Al-Ambiak and Kopi Jantan Tradisional, which have tested positive for sildenafil.
A recent sampling of beverages by the Pharmaceutical Services Division revealed that 129 of them tested positive for controlled poisons, such as tadanafil, sildenafil, sibutramine and dexamethasone.
Mazlan had said these beverages were the go-to “solution” among those dealing with erectile dysfunction.
He said these products were “hiding” the sexual stimulant substances, and the producers were able to dodge the law as beverages came under the Food Safety and Quality Division’s jurisdiction.
Under existing regulation, producers of these illicit products do not need to notify the division before they sell the products. © New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd