Packets of rice that are beyond their ‘best before’ date have been distributed to victims of cyclone Ha’apai, it was claimed this week.
Victims of the cyclone said they had been given packets of rice with new ‘best before’ stickers pasted over the original date.
People told Kaniva News they were outraged they had been given rice with falsified dates that said it could still be used before 2015.
They were angry the government had not warned them about it.
Pangai Town Officer, Moimoi Fakahua said the rice was part of the groceries distributed by the Tongan government last Thursday (April 24).
Fakahua told Kaniva News he received complaints from a number of women regarding the rice.
He said he told them the ‘best before’ date did not mean it had expired or was bad for eating. If the rice reached its ‘best before’ date it could still be eaten, but its quality might have deteriorated.
According to the packaging, the rice was exported from Vietnam to the Helen Investment Trading Co. Ltd. A sticker stuck on the package says ‘Best Before 02-19-2015.’
Complainants were suspicious about why a sticker was on the packet and when they scratched it they could see another date they believed was the real ‘best before’ date, which said the rice should be consumed by April 15, 2014 – two weeks ago.
Tonga’s National Emergency Management Office director, Leveni ‘Aho, said his office was investigating the matter.
The director flew from Tongatapu to Ha’apai this morning to follow up on the episode.
“It was unfortunate that this happened,” ‘Aho said.
“The staff at Ha’apai should have withheld the rice.”
Asked whether NEMO would tell people there was a problem with the dates, the director said: “We will publicly announce it as soon as possible and let people know we are aware of the condition, but I am reluctant at the moment to go public because we have to make sure we have all details with us.”
‘Aho said they had contacted the Chinese owner of the shop they ordered the rice from in Nuku’alofa. NEMO was working with other government departments, including Health, to see if there were any legal issues.
NEMO would look at the supplier in Tonga and investigate whether any dates had been falsified, ‘Aho said.
‘Aho denied NEMO had been negligent and said they only became aware of the problem when people complained.
He said 600 packets of rice were distributed, but another shipment of 2000 packets had arrived at Ha’apai.
Kaniva News called a telephone number written on the outside of the rice packets, but the person who answered the phone hung up when we asked to talk to the person in charge.
Earlier this year Ha’apai residents were up in arms after tins of rancid fish were distributed.
There were mixed reactions to what had happened. Some people went with the Tongan saying – ma’u pe mo fakafeta’i (Got it and be grateful you got something rather than nothing) but people quickly took to social media to vent frustrations.
Alele Meafoou made this comment on Facebook: “This is an ungodly action by the leaders of the government.” She said the expired rice should be returned to the owner as Ha’apai was not a rubbish dump. She also questioned the millions of donations given from overseas to help the people of Ha’apai following the cyclone.
Simote Janice Lauti said on Facebook: “It's sad to think that the Tongan government think that the people of Ha’apai are stupid. They should have been upfront and said that the rice has expired and let the people make the decision to eat the rice if they want. At least give the people of Ha’apai a chance. Not a lot of good seems to be coming from the Tongan Government in the way of good honest decision making for Ha’apai after cyclone Ian. Just know that your fellow Ha’apai people are trying to help whether it be in a big or small way.”
‘Alakeita Tu’ivailala begged people to pray so that the leaders of Tonga make prudent decision to match the claim that Tonga is a religious nation.
Loka Helu said people should take the rice and be thankful because it could be stored for many years and still be edible.
Best Before Date
The New Zealand Food Standard website says most foods have a best before date. You can still eat foods for a while after the best before date as they should be safe, but they may have lost some quality. Foods that have a best before date can legally be sold after that date provided the food is fit for human consumption.
The main points
- Cyclone victims on Ha’apai claim they have been given packets of rice that are beyond their use by date.
- They told Kaniva News packets of rice distributed by the government had new ‘best before’ stickers pasted over the original date.
- The rice was imported from Vietnam and sold through a Chinese-owned shop in Nuku’alofa.
- Tonga’s National Emergency Management Office director, Leveni ‘Aho, said his office was investigating the matter.
- He denied NEMO had not been negligent and said they only became aware of the problem when people complained.
For more information
Na’e tufa atu ha ngaahi kofu laise kuo osi ‘a hono ‘aho ‘e kei lelei taha ai ha ma’ume’atokoni mei ai ki he kainga Ha’apai ko ia ne matangia fakasaikolone he Fo'i 'One'one ko ha tukuaki’i ia kuo fai ‘i he uike ni.
Kuo tufa ki he kainga Ha’apai ko ‘eni ‘a e ngaahi peketi laise ‘oku fakapipiki ha ‘aho fo’ou ia ‘i he tu’a kofukofu ‘o ne ufi’ufi ‘e ia ‘a e aho ne ‘uluaki fokotu’u ai.
Na’e fakaha ‘e he kakai ki he ongooongo ‘a e Kaniva ‘enau ‘ita lahi ko hono tufa ange ‘a e laise kuo liliu kakaa’i ‘a e ‘aho ‘o tala ia ‘e kei sai pe ‘o a’u ki he 2015.
Kuo nau ‘itaa foki ko e ‘ikai hanga ‘e he pule’anga ‘o fai ha fakatokanga kia kinautolu fekau’aki mo e tukunga ko ‘eni ‘oku ‘oange pehe’i ‘aki ‘a e laise.
Nae pehe ‘e he ‘Ofisa Kolo ‘o Pangai, Moimoi Fakahua ko e laise ko ‘eni ko e konga ia e tufa tokoni afa hono Ua ‘a e Pule’anga ‘i he Tu’apulelulu 24 ‘o ‘Epeleli.
Na’e fakaha ‘e Fakahua ki he Ongoongo ‘a e Kaniva na’a ne osi ma’u ha ngaahi launga mei ha finematu’a kau ki he laise. Na’a ne pehe na’a ne fakamatala pe ki he kau fefine ni ‘oku ‘ikai ‘uhinga e ‘best before date’ kuo ta’e ‘aonga ‘a e me’akai.
Kapau kuo a’u ‘a e laise ki he ‘aho ko ee ‘Best Before’ ‘e kei lava pe ke kai ka ‘e lava ke holo ‘a hono kualatii pe kanolelei.
Fakatatau foki ki he kofukofu, ko e laise ko ‘eni na’e hu ki tu’a mei Vietinemi ki he Kautaha ‘Inivesimeni Helen Trading Co. Ltd. ‘Oku fakapipiki leva ‘a e sitika ‘i tu’a ai ‘o pehe: ‘Sai ki mu’a he ‘aho: 19 Fepueli 2015’.
Na’e mahamahalo ha ni’ihi ia ne launga ko e ha e ‘uhinga e toe fakapipiki ‘o e sitika ko ‘eni ‘i tu’a pea nau vau’i ‘e kinautolu kuo ‘asi hake ha toe ‘aho ia ‘e taha ‘a ia ‘oku nau tui ko e ‘aho totonu ia, pea ‘oku pehe ia ai ko e laise ko ‘eni ko e taimi lelei taha pe ke kei fai ha ma'u me'atokoni mei ai ko e ‘aho ki mu'a 'i he 'aho 15 ‘o Epeleli 2014 – ‘a ia ko e uike ia ‘e ua kuo ‘osi.
Na’e pehe mei he Talekita ‘o e NEMO, Leveni ‘Aho ‘oku lolotonga fakatotolo ‘a hono ‘ofisi ki he me’a ko ‘eni. Na’e puna atu foki ‘a e talekita ni mei Tongatapu ki Ha’apai ‘i he pongipongi ni ke fai ha vakai ki he me’a kuo hoko.
Pehe ‘e ‘Aho ko e me’apango ia e hoko ‘a e me’a ko ‘eni. Na’e totonu pe ke puke ‘e he kau ngaue ‘i Ha’apai ‘a e laise ‘oua ‘e tufa.
‘I hano ‘eke ange pe ‘e fai ‘e he NEMO ha fanongonongo ki he kakai kuo ‘i ai ‘a e palopalema fekau’aki mo e ‘aho kuo ha ‘i he laise na’e pehe ‘e he talekita te nau fanongonongo ia ‘i he vave taha ke ‘ilo e kakai ki he tu’unga kuo nau ‘ilo ki ai ka ‘oku ne ki’i taimi pe koe’uhi ke fakapapau’i ‘oku nau ma’u ‘a e ngaahi fakaikiiki kotoa.
Na’e pehe ‘e ‘Aho foki kuo nau ‘osi fetu’utaki mo e Siaina ‘a’ana ‘a e fale koloa ne hu mei ai ‘a e laise ‘i Nuku’alofa. ‘Oku fengaue’aki fakataha ‘a e ngaahi potungaue ‘a e pule’anga, kau ai ‘a e Mo’ui ke vakai’i na’a ‘oku ‘i ai ha ngaahi ‘isiu fakalao heni.
Na’a ne pehe foki ‘oku vakai’i ‘e he NEMO ‘a e kautaha fakatau laise ni mo fakatotolo’i pe na’e fai hano liliu kakaa’i ‘o e ‘aho.
Na’e pehe foki ‘e ‘Aho mole ke mama’o ha ngaue ta’e tokanga ‘a e NEMO ko ‘enau toki fakatokanga’i pe palopalema ‘i he taimi ne launga ai ‘a e kakai.
Na’a ne pehe ko e kofu laise pe ‘e 600 na’e tufa ka kuo toe tu’uta hake ki Ha’apai ‘a e kofu ‘e 2000 ke tuku atu.
Na’e fetu’utaki ‘a e Kaniva ki ha telefoni ‘oku tohi ‘i tua ‘i he kofukofu laise ke lea ki he kautaha ko ‘eni ka ne tapuni mai e telefoni ia ‘e he taha ne ne tali he taimi ne fakaha atu ai ke lea ki he taha ‘a’ana ‘a e kautaha.
‘I he konga ki mu’a ‘o e ta’u ni, na’e fetuhuaki ai e kau ngaue ‘a e pule’anga ki he tafa’aki ‘o e tufa me’akai mo e kainga Ha’apai ai pe ‘i ha kapaika ia ne tufaki atu kiate kinautolu ka ne ‘ai hake kuo kovi ia.
‘Oku tuifio pe nga’uta ‘a e kakai ki he me’a ‘oku hoko. Ko e ni’ihi ‘oku nau ‘ai pe lau ‘a e lea Tonga – ma’u pe mo fakafeta’i – ka ‘oku tavave pe foki e kakai ia ki he mitia fakasosiale ‘o hua’i ki ai ‘enau ‘ita.
Na’e fai ai ‘e he toko taha ko Alele Meafoou ‘a e lau ko ‘eni ‘i he Feisipuka: Koe ha mea kuo hoko ki Tonga fkpo kuo mole e ofa fksamaletane ia kuo mau ongoi kimautolu …..tae fk Otua pehe fau kuo fai ehe kau taki oe Puleanga ko fe paanga laulau miliona e tokoni atu mei muli ni kou tui kapau tenau ilo ae toonga kaka pehe heikai fai atu ha tokoni ia….sai pe ke fkfoki kia kinautolu ae meakai expire he oku ikai koha lalu anga veve oku ave kiai.
Na’e pehe ‘e Simote Janice Lauti he Feisipuka: “’Oku fakamamahi ‘a e fakakaukau atu ‘oku pehe ‘e he pule’anga ko e kakai ‘o Ha’apai ‘oku nau vale. Na’e totonu ke nau tala ki mu’a kuo ‘osi e taimi ‘aonga ‘o e laise pea toki faitu’utu’uni ai ‘a e kakai pe te nau fiemau. ‘Oange pe ha ki’i faingamalie ma’a e kau Ha’apai. Oku ‘ikai lahi ha ‘asi mai ha founga faitotonu mei he Pule’anga Tonga ‘i he ngaahi tu’utu’uni ‘oku nau fai ki Ha’apai ‘i he hili ‘a e saikolone.
‘I he Feisipuka ai pe na’e kole ai ‘a e tokotaha ko Alakeita Tu’ivailala ki he kakai ke nau lotu ma’a e kau taki ‘o Tonga ke fai fakapotopoto ‘enau tu’utu’uni ke tuha mo taau mo e pehe ko Tonga ko e fonua lotu.
Kaekehe na’e pehe ‘e Loka Helu ke nau ma’u pe mo fakamalo koe’uhi ko e laise ‘e lava pe ia ke tauhi ‘i ha ngaahi ta’u kei sai pe ia ke ma’u me’atokoni mei ai.
‘Oku fakamatala e uepisaiti ‘a Nu’u Sila ni ki he tauhia ‘o e tu’unga lelei ‘o e me’atokoni ‘o pehe ko e lahi taha ‘o e me’akai ‘oku ‘i ai ‘a e ‘aho ke ngata ai ki mu’a ‘a e kei lelei ke fai ha ma’u me’atokoni mei ai.
E kei lava pe ke kai ‘i ha ngaahi taimi ‘osi ‘a e ‘aho ko ‘eni he ‘e lava pe ke kei hao pe ka ‘e malava kuo ‘osi holoa hono kanolelei.
Ko e me’akai ko ia ‘oku i ai ‘a e best before date ‘e lava pe ke kei fakalao ‘a hono fakatau atu ‘i Nu’u Sila ni hili e ‘aho ko ia kae makatu’unga pe ‘i he kei taau ‘a e me’akai ko ia ki hano kai.