Mind product quality, not our adobo

"Secretary Lopez should concentrate on these concerns instead."


Instead of spending precious time and resources in setting a “baseline” for our “adobo,” DTI Secretary Lopez should devote more time in looking at the quality of our products starting with the consumables in our grocery shelves and industrial items used in households, offices and factories. Product quality is definitely a more crucial DTI responsibility than setting “standards” for adobo making. Lopez should just leave the “baselines setting” to the styles of our cooks and chefs who have their own versions of that family fare that not even DTI’s high powered technical working group can possibly improve on,  much less impose.  

Has the agency, for example, looked into the earlier complaints about substandard steel products flooding the country’s gray market which can definitely cause the loss of lives and property in time? Remember the case of the Pampanga mall which collapsed after just a small tremor? That mall was built with substandard steel bars.

What about those of the lemon cars which became the talk of the town early into the term of this administration? Although these cases were inherited from the PNoy administration, it was incumbent upon Lopez and company to have looked into this matter and submitted their findings complete with possible measures to ensure that such vehicles do not populate our streets all over again. We have yet to hear from Secretary Lopez about these cases. And these were all pre-pandemic.

What about the thousands of food products whether locally manufactured or imported? Has the DTI been conducting regular monitoring of these items to ensure that the same are manufactured in accordance with internationally recognized standards? Definitely, the provenance and quality of these products are more critical to the consuming public than all the various types of adobo dishes which Lopez’ technical working group intend to look into and “standardize.”

In fact, Secretary Lopez can start this quality assurance effort by inquiring into the manufacturing, importation and distribution of Nestle S.A. products. He can secure a copy of the internal investigation report submitted to the highest officials of the world’s largest food company which pointed out that a majority, about seventy percent (70 percent), of Nestle’s food and beverage products do not meet internationally recognized standards” for such products.    

In that internal document which found its way into the pages of the UK business paper, Financial Times, Nestle acknowledged that the majority of such products excluding pet food and specialized medical nutrition do not meet the said standard established under Australia’s health star rating system. The system scores foods out of five stars and is used in research by international groups including, among others, the Access to Nutrition Foundation.

The company which manufactures such favourites as Maggi noodles, Kitkat and Nescafe has acknowledged that only 37 percent of products in those categories achieve a rating above 3.5 star under the said system and that “some categories and products will never be ‘healthy’ no matter how much it renovates.” This means that Nestles’s portfolio of unhealthy products, as rated under the 5 stars Australian system accounts for about 46.3 billion Swiss francs or half of Nestlé’s 92.6 billion Swiss francs (€84.35 billion) total annual revenues.This is certainly a very troubling development especially in the midst of a pandemic which has highlighted more intimately the need for healthy products and lifestyles.

It is even more disconcerting and certainly a cause for immediate action on the part of Secretary Lopez whose agency through its Bureau of Product Standards can initiate a thoroughgoing investigation into this matter. He should be advised that Nestle’s food and beverage products have somehow dominated the local scene, so to speak, edging out those dished out by the other multinationals like Procter and Gamble and Unilever and our very own local food and beverage manufacturers. Of course, Lopez can always claim that his agency is just one of a number of other departments such as the Department of Agriculture and the department of health, among others, which has responsibility over the quality of food and beverage products being displayed in our supermarkets. But that would be a very lame and disingenuous claim considering its basic mandate under the law.

Imagine, the fact that 70 percent of the hundreds of products in Nestles’s food portfolio along with 96 per cent of beverages –excluding pure coffee – and 99 per cent of its confectionery and ice cream portfolio, do not meet the said standard can potentially subject not only the company but possibly even DTI and the government to multiple suits. In DTI’s case, for negligence and even incompetence.

Secretary Lopez should be advised if he is not yet aware that Nestlé’s strawberry-flavoured  Nesquik , which is a favourite of school children, contains 14g of sugarin a 14g serving alongside small amounts of coloring and flavouring, though it is designed to be mixed with milk and is advertised as “perfect at breakfast to get kids ready for the day” which is,of course, far from the truth if not utterly false. That false advertising alone should be more than enough for Lopez and his colleagues to go after Nestle and its partners.  Of course, we would be ready to hear and even present the other side of the story if the company deems it necessary. 

We are just talking of Nestle here. What about the other consumer products companies such as P&G, Unilever and the local manufacturers? Has the DTI ever lifted a finger to check on their products and, yes, their advertising mantras?  

For a long, long time, these companies have been heavily advertising the virtue of their products and their operations as  “nutrition, health and wellness organizations” exhorting the values of their products in pursuit of a good and healthy life. With this internal confession from no less than Nestle S.A. itself about its unhealthy products, Lopez and company should now work overtime to see to it that indeed there is truth to its claim as an excellent, professional and civic minded manufacturer. That should be the effort as well in the case of the other manufacturers whose products affect the health and lifestyles of each and every Filipino. Secretary Lopez should concentrate on these concerns and distance himself from our adobo.  

Topics: J.A. Dela Cruz , adobo , DTI Secretary Lopez , product quality
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