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'For Export Only' food labels spark online debate

- Residents concerned that VI may be importing inferior goods
A post in 'The REAL BVI Community Board' facebook group has sparked a debate as concerns are being raised over the quality of food being imported into the territory owing to several imported items carry the label 'For Export Only," while being retailed in the Virgin Islands (VI). Photo: Facebook
As pointed out by Dr Ronald E. Georges, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at the BVI Health Services Authority, 'For Export Only' means compliance with receiving country regulations principally labeling regulations. The exporter and manufacturer will have a copy of the certificate of compliance. Photo: GIS/File
As pointed out by Dr Ronald E. Georges, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at the BVI Health Services Authority, 'For Export Only' means compliance with receiving country regulations principally labeling regulations. The exporter and manufacturer will have a copy of the certificate of compliance. Photo: GIS/File
ROAD TOWN, Tortola, VI - A post in "The REAL BVI Community Board," Facebook group has sparked a debate as concerns are being raised over the quality of food being imported into the territory owing to several imported items carrying the label 'For Export Only," while being retailed in the Virgin Islands (VI).

First posted on August 11, 2019, the post has amassed almost 70 comments where the majority of residents cried out that the product would be either unsafe to consume or should not be retailed locally.

Heated Conversation 

One Facebook commenter, Colin O'Neal in questioning the need for the label said, "Why are so many products on our store shelves marked “For Export Only”? The consuming public needs to have an explanation for this distinction immediately."

He said the Minister responsible for trade should demand answers for retailers, "If there is some underlying difference in ingredients or processing to account for the designation, the product should be banned for importation into the BVI," the irate resident remarked. 

But why are so many products on VI shelves labeled 'for export only' as pointed out by local consumers when other regional territories carry the same products often without the label? Virgin Islands News Online (VINO) reached out to Junior Minister for Trade and Economic Development, Hon Sharie C. B. de Castro (AL) for an explanation, however up to publication time, no response was received.

We further reached out to the Customer Service Department of one importer, Roadtown Wholesale Trading Limited on why would products carry such a label, however, received an automated response with a promise that the question would be answered soon. 

Products Safe - Dr Ronald E. Georges

Another top BVI Community board member, Mr Barry Jones remarked that with the label, "If it [products] does not meet American standards for consumption it should not be sold period," however, that is not the case with the need to label the products as such. 

As pointed out by Dr Ronald E. Georges, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at the BVI Health Services Authority, "For Export Only" means compliance with receiving country regulations principally labeling regulations. The exporter and manufacturer will have a copy of the certificate of compliance.

"There is a lot of unnecessary scaremongering," the BVIHA CEO told VINO on whether citizens should be concerned about the label.  He said it means that the labeling and products are designed to meet import requirements in a country other than the USA he said. 

"It's about regulations in the receiving country. In some cases, I can well imagine ingredients is also an issue. There are food ingredients banned in the EU and allowed in the US and vice versa," he said.

4 Responses to “'For Export Only' food labels spark online debate ”

  • facts (22/08/2019, 10:24) Like (5) Dislike (1) Reply
    Timothy Sly, Food-borne diseases epidemiologist, Toronto:

    There are many reasons why you see a product labelled for export only, and they should not be the cause of concern. Sometimes it's a labelling issue. A label made for a product that is to be consumed in one country has to bear a label approved by the Food and Drug authorities in that country, and it may not meet the specifications of another jurisdiction. Emulsifiers, stabilizers, colours, antioxidants, preservatives, etc. are listed and described differently. For example turmeric (orange-yellow colour) is listed by name in the US and Canada, while within the European Union, it must be shown using the E-code designation, where it is known as E100(ii).
    Language requirements may vary; in Canada, both English and French are required on the label, but in Puerto Rico the same product might require Spanish and English. (When I first arrived in Canada, I wandered up and down the isle of the supermarket looking for salt, without recognizing packages of "Sel Iodé"!)
    Permitted additives may vary; for instance there have been times when sodium cyclamate was banned in the USA, which at the time permitted saccharin, while the reverse was true in Canada. A few years later, this was reversed. The UK product Bovril (paste-type) is sometimes targeted by Canadian authorities because Bovril's beef extract component is not described exactly according to the Canadian labelling requirements, and Marmite yeast extract is seized because it contains very high levels of (naturally-occurring) B-complex vitamins, that exceed the range permitted in Canada.
  • One the other hand (22/08/2019, 10:26) Like (8) Dislike (0) Reply
    I think there is some cause for concern here. Not that any of the products would be really unsafe, but you should check the ingredients carefully. You should be able to email the manufacturer and ask them why the product is for export only.

    In Europe it was recently found that many brands had inferior formulations that they sold in Eastern Europe, not in Western Europe. This practice has now been banned by the European Union. A consumer protection group in your country might be able to investigate whether the same thing is going on.

    American food safety laws are quite tight but often not so tight as European ones. Ingredients lists are available online and you can see for example that there is more sugar in breakfast cereals for the American market then in exactly the same brand sold in Europe. I would not be surprised if there were even more in the version sold in the Caribbean, but this would need to be investigated.
  • Sigh (22/08/2019, 11:41) Like (0) Dislike (6) Reply
    Much to do about nothing!!
  • wize up (22/08/2019, 15:37) Like (6) Dislike (0) Reply
    identify the merchant that imports such products and have a serious conversation with them


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