Personnel from the Police Criminal Investigative Department (CID) attached to Ghana’s Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) have confiscated on Thursday two laptops and two desktop computers belonging to managers of Imperial Logistics, owners of Fareast Mercantile.
The confiscation is part of an inquiry into DUBAWA’s “Consuming Trash” investigation in which managers of Fareast Mercantile, together with their ‘clients’ at Accra Central Business District, are suspected to be selling expired products to consumers.
The confiscation of the machines is also to preserve and protect the sanctity of potential evidence that may be on the computers. With a court order, the police and the FDA can access information on those machines to facilitate investigation into what could potentially be one of the biggest expired food saga with its attendant public health crisis.
The owners of the machines, including Sharab Sharma, Logistics and Supply Chain Manager, Michael Bassaw, Warehouse Supervisor, have also been invited to the FDA to assist with investigations.
Months of investigations by DUBAWA have uncovered what appears to be a deliberate company strategy to sell expired products to unsuspecting consumers.
Intercepted email conversations, part of which have already been published by DUBAWA, show top managers of the company including the Acting General Manager, Sales (Food), Rayul Kashyap; head of Finance at Fareast Mercantile, Aney Mate; the Logistics and Supply Chain Manager, Saurabh Sharma; and Manager for Sales (Non-food), Raja Mohammed, have been fixing prices and ordering the sale of damaged and expired products, consumables and non consumables, that ought to have been trashed under strict Food and Drugs Authority guidelines.
Almost one-year-old (10-11 months) expired biscuits were in December 2021, sold to dealers in damaged and expired products in Agbogbloshie, Accra’s Central Business District, who in turn sold them to unsuspecting consumers.
Through the joint operation by the DUBAWA team and the Police CID, one of such dealers, Edward Sarpong was arrested on March 31, 2022, after he bought expired products from Fareast Mercantile and had taken it to the market to be offloaded and sold.
Before his arrest though, he had successfully purchased truckloads of expired non-consumables including assorted types of Dettol, Njoi soap, Jennifer’s floral anti-bacterial wipes, Enchanteur perfumed HBL, Airwick, Mortein fly and mosquito killer insecticide, on March 17, 2022 and December 17, 2021, all of which DUBAWA tracked by mail and with supporting video and pictorial evidence.
In a casual conversation at the police CID, which DUBAWA has on record, Sarpong admitted selling three months old expired products and has been engaging in the business for eight years.
Fareast Mercantile denial?
Managers of Fareast Mercantile have not officially responded to questions sent to them by DUBAWA, but in a four-paragraph statement, with no signatory, published on Ghanaweb and traced to Fareast Mercantile, the company has denied any wrongdoing.
The statement reads;
As promised to share in Part One of this investigation, DUBAWA has in its custody a March 2022 email conversation with the subject “Damages-Liquidation Jul-Oct 2022” and what top management members of the company did with those damaged products. DUBAWA also has in its possession portions of Fareast Mercantile’s own Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) issued on March 25, 2020 with effective date being 01/04/2020. The SOP specifies what should be done with damaged products. For the avoidance of doubt, the SOP states that damaged products, like expired products, must be QUARANTINED, and destroyed after alerting the appropriate statutory authorities.
The Fareast Mercantile SOP is the globally accepted SOP for dealing with damaged goods as can be seen in page 27 of the UNHCR Warehouse and Inventory Management Standard Operating Procedures.
Again, there is also a globally acceptable warehousing principle which frowns on the sale and distribution of products that will expire within six months.
Despite the impressive Fareast SOP on paper, our investigation reveals the company does not observe what is contained in the document. Additional evidence shows that on February 14, 2022, Kashyap, instructed Saurabh to issue some ‘damage and expired list.’
The following day, Saurabh responded with a tall list of damaged and expired goods in all four Fareast warehouses across the regions of Ghana which he said would be “liquidated.”
After the long list of damaged and expired goods that should be “liquidated,” Samuel Mensah gave an idea what it means to liquidate damaged and expired goods in his February 15 mail sent to Shaurabh. In that mail, a picture of which is shown below, Mensah said the same stock which Rayuh had described as damaged (a picture of which is shown above in yellow) had been issued on a Manual Way Bill (MWB) No 16850. As we have learnt from part one of this investigation, this MWB is an agent that buys expired goods.
Above is the full list of the products sent by Samuel Mensah all of which have been sold contrary to the company’s own SOP and against the FDA guidelines on dealing with damaged products which would expire within six months.
This evidence and more have all been presented to the FDA for further investigations.
The FDA in an interview with DUBAWA reiterated its commitment to investigate the matter thoroughly and apply the appropriate sanctions that would protect the interest of consumers.
The Director of Legal and Corporate Affairs at the FDA, Mr Joseph Yaw-Bernie Bennie, stated that an expired product, whether consumable or not, is not fit for purpose and anyone who sells the same, has fallen foul of the law.
“Most products that the FDA regulates might contain chemicals. These chemicals might break down into something else. It is the reason why manufacturers put expiry dates or best before use dates on their products and therefore you cannot guarantee that the health and safety of the consumer can be preserved or not negatively affected by the use of expired products. Whether they are food or not food items, it is expected that once it expires, it should not be used,” he said.
He will not give details of the extent of investigations into the Fareast Mercantile saga, except to say that the FDA by law has the power to prosecute, sanction, fine and withdraw licenses. He insists the FDA will weigh the evidence and provide a commensurate sanction.
He charged Ghanaians to provide information about any wrong doing so that the FDA could timeously act upon the same.
DUBAWA will follow this investigation by the FDA to its logical conclusion in the interest of public health.