Group to Target Unhealthy School Snacks in Burma

By San Yamin Aung 3 June 2014

RANGOON — A Rangoon-based consumer advocacy group will inspect food shops on school grounds in Burma to root out foods and drinks that are potentially harmful to health, the group’s chairman says.

Burma’s Consumer Protection Association (CPA) has claimed recently that certain imported fish sauces, instant coffee mixes, cooking oils and cold drinks contain harmful chemicals and additives.

“We will start inspecting schools in Mandalay, Sagaing and Bago divisions in the middle of this month, and after that we will do it in Rangoon,” the group’s chairman and founder Ba Oak Khine told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday.

He said the CPA began visiting food shops at schools in Rangoon last year, urging them to stop selling unhealthy foods and drinks.

“We educated the shop owners,” he said. “When we went back to check again, we found that some were still selling foods that are harmful to health.”

He said 80 percent of products sold at schools in Burma’s former capital were not approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

“This time, we will remind the owners first if we find them selling unhealthy foods and drinks. If the owners keep selling these products, we will sue them with National Food Law,” he said.

The CPA has approval from the Ministry of Education to conduct the inspections at schools, according to CPA member Soe Kalar Htike.

“Children will be safer if we can collaborate more with parents, students, shop owners, headmasters and the officials,” she said.

Headmasters typically grant permission for shop owners to sell products on school grounds.

According to an article published in the state-run New Light of Myanmar newspaper on Tuesday, education authorities last year prohibited the sale of Chinese snacks on school grounds, but the ban was not enforced.

The newspaper reported that many snacks sold in the local market contain banned dyes including Orange II, Sudan III and Rhodamine B. Frequent consumption of these dyes can lead to stomach ulcers and cancers, the newspaper warned.