DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 16 July) – The Food and Drug Administration in the Davao Region (FDA XI) ordered the manufacturer of the candies that allegedly poisoned close to 2,000 victims – mostly children in Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur and Agusan del Sur last week – to recall all its products from the market.
The order was issued after the agency found out that the owner of Davao City-based Wendy’s Delicious Durian Candy has no license to operate and is non-compliant to good manufacturing practices.
Speaking during Thursday’s iSpeak Forum, FDA-Davao supervisor Deborah S. Legaspi said the owner vowed to pull out the products from its distribution sites and must voluntarily surrender them to FDA.
Aside from Davao City, Wendy’s was distributing to some stores in Digos City, Kidapawan City, Tandag in Surigao del Sur, Kabacan in Cotabato, and San Francisco in Agusan del Sur.
No products have been turned over to FDA XI so far.
In an inspection held on July 11, FDA XI found out that the manufacturing site lacked a functioning water system, a violation to good manufacturing practices.
“Although they have a faucet but it’s not working. The water must have been sourced from outside,” Legaspi said.
The agency also confiscated a total 204 packs of candies. Each pack contained 100 pieces.
Meanwhile, another brand has figured in the poisoning incident.
Authorities also subjected candies produced by another Davao City-based manufacturer, Blesse’s, for food analysis, along with Wendy’s products, to the FDA satellite office located in Tagum City.
“It was recommended for food analysis because it appears Blesse’s was among those consumed,” Legaspi said.
She clarified, however, that products manufactured by Blesse’s were not confiscated but were “inventoried” and “sealed” pending laboratory results, which will be released anytime this week, and an order from FDA.
At least 193 packs of Blesse’s products were sealed.
Legaspi explained that it will take time before results are completed because they have to incubate the samples to verify if there is a presence of bacteria and another confirmatory test to determine what bacteria caused the poisoning.
Jinolex A. Caingles, senior inspector at the City Health Office (CHO), said they will place the manufacturers of the candies under proper food handling training on Tuesday next week.
Legaspi admitted that FDA XI has only eight food and drug regulation officers, very few to check all the establishments, be they food or non-food, in the region.
Earlier, lawyer Sweetheart Aldevera, legal counsel of international evangelist Pastor Apollo Quiboloy, head of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, confirmed that some of those arrested were indeed members of their church.
They then dispatched a team to Surigao del Sur to make sure that their members get the legal assistance.
“Over the weekend what we had were raw reports. We relied on texts and calls from our members who are near Surigao. We could not fully verify. There was a member who confirmed that they are members. We cannot neglect them,” she said.
Trexie Marie Laum, 19, vendor at the Magsaysay Fruit Vendors Association, said the food poisoning incident significantly affected their sales.
She said no sales for the candy products were made since Wednesday.
“Most of our customers are scared to buy our candy products no matter how hard we try to explain to them that our products are safe and in fact different from the candies that caused the poisoning,” she said in the vernacular. Most of her customers are domestic tourists who buy candies for pasalubong.