By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Bureau of Food and Drugs (BFAD) needs additional personnel and testing centers in the country to monitor and examine food items imported in the country, an Ilonggo congressman said.

Rep. Ferjenel Biron (4th district, Iloilo) said BFAD must beef up its workforce to thoroughly monitor the market for banned items, particularly milk from China believed to be contaminated with melamine which causes kidney stones.

Biron said there are only 370 food and drug regulation officers (FDROs) assigned all over the country which makes it difficult for the agency to monitor food, drugs and cosmetic items in the Philippines.

BFAD only has one testing center based in Alabang, Makati City which means all tests must be done in Metro Manila.

“BFAD does not have enough personnel to monitor the compliance of food items, medicines among others to standards set by the World Health Organization,” the congressman added.

Biron, who is a doctor by profession, said he co-sponsored the BFAD Strengthening Bill in the House of Representatives which aims to triple the number of FDROs in the country.

The bill also seeks to allocate P1 billion for the construction testing centers in key cities of the country to hasten the examination of suspected contaminated and or substandard items.

Despite the lack in manpower and logistics, Biron lauded the BFAD for working overtime to monitor and ban milk products suspected to be laced with melamine.

“While they lack people, BFAD is capable to test products. The agency has been doing this job well so far. It is not customary for the BFAD to check all products imported in the country. What they conduct are random tests only. The agency relies on reports from countries where these products originated,” Biron added.

With the China milk scare gripping the Philippines and other parts of the world, Biron advised the BFAD to issue specific guidelines on what milk products must be banned after comprehensive tests.

“The BFAD must also act with prudence to protect businesses as not all milk brands are contaminated,” he added.