Ni Komang Erviani, Contributor The Jakarta Post, Denpasar
Bali's local office of the Food and Drug Monitoring Agency (BBPOM) destroyed Friday 48,580 food packages confirmed contaminated with the industrial chemical melamine.
The products included M&M's candies, Oreo wafer sticks and Snickers candy bars.
The products were placed inside 99 cardboard boxes and 22 gunnysacks before being set ablaze by agency officials. The event took place at the Suwung garbage dump and was attended by representatives from the agencies for health and trade and industry, who had assisted with the round-up.
Head of Bali's BBPOM Sri Utami Ekaningtyas said her agency had seized the tainted products from stores, supermarkets and traditional markets across the island's nine regions during a monthlong operation.
"A large majority of the products were seized from establishments in Denpasar municipality and Badung regency. Laboratory tests confirmed they contained melamine," she said.
The products were destroyed, she disclosed, based on written instructions from the Health Minister.
"Melamine is dangerous to humans because it can damage the kidney. Contaminated products endanger public health and therefore must be destroyed," she said.
She added BBPOM would continue retrieving suspect food products. She warned any commercial establishment found selling the identified brands in the next sweep would face legal measures.
"Importers, distributors and retailers who ignore the government's order will face legal action which could mean a maximum sentence of five years in prison or a fine of up to Rp 2 billion (US$183,000)."
She cited several national laws -- 23/1992 on health, 7/1996 on food and 8/1999 on consumer protection -- as the legal basis for the sanctions.
Melamine is illegally added to food products in an effort to increase the apparent protein content of the products. In September the BBPOM confirmed various imported foods from China contained dangerous levels of the contaminant.