Tulfo is angry with DTI because they have not done enough to protect and educate consumers about the dangers of high-sodium instant noodles and sardines.
Senator Raffy Tulfo called on the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to make sure that products that are dangerous for people’s health, like instant noodles and canned sardines with a high sodium level, are not sold to low-income people.
DTI Secretary Alfredo Pascual said that Sec. Pascual should work with other agencies, like the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), to find better alternatives to salt and minimize the health risks of too much salt.
“Ang mahihirap nating mga kababayan, mukhang napapabayaan. 1.2M Filipinos annually ang nagkakasakit po sa kidney dahil sa pagkonsumo ng maaalat na produkto ayon sa National Kidney Institute. Ang instant noodles hindi lang once a day kinakain ng mga mahihirap, kasi ito po ang kanilang abot-kaya. Kaya nga po ang tawag dito ay poor-man’s food,” he said.
“If you know that these products are not good for the health of the Filipino people, na sinabi na ring paulit-ulit na ng mga health experts, dapat po ay umaksyon na kayo agad, at kayo mismo ang gumagawa ng initiative to refer the issue to the agency concerned. Hindi ‘yung sasabihin niyong, hindi niyo trabaho ‘yan, at magtuturo kayo ng ibang departamento,” he added.
While Tulfo isn’t completely against instant noodles and sardines, he did raise some concerns about the high levels of sodium found in these products. During the hearing, he brought along a variety of cup noodles that he bought on his own, to show the Committee what he’s concerned about.
Unlike in Japan and the US, where sodium levels were reduced on instant noodles and sardines, Tulfo noted that one pack of locally-made instant noodles has sodium content ranging from 1,600mg to 1,900mg when the recommended daily intake is only a maximum of 2,000mg.
In Japan, a brand has already released a salt-reduced version of its famous cup noodles using magnesium chloride instead of sodium chloride. Meanwhile, a top-selling sardines’ brand in the US has only 70mg sodium per can as compared to the famous sardines’ brands in the Philippines which have sodium levels from 300mg to as high as 610mg per can.
Alarmingly, Tulfo said that some poor people would be consuming instant noodles multiple times a day, considering them as their three square meals a day or more, without being aware that this could lead to excess daily salt consumption that are causing diseases such as kidney problem and diabetes.
So, Tulfo said local manufacturers of sardines and cup noodles could take after the adjustments made by brands in Japan and the US which reduced or replaced sodium chloride with better alternatives to lessen the products’ health risks without compromising the taste.
In fact, Tulfo recalled that famed Filipino doctor Willie Ong, as well as other medical experts and consumer advocates, have repeatedly warned that several conditions are made worse by too much salt from products like Cup Noodles, yet no action has been taken by the DTI.
In calling out DTI for its failure to proactively monitor the safety of these products, Tulfo cited Art. 10 of the Consumer Act of the Philippines.
Art. 10 states that: “Whenever the departments find, by their own initiative or by petition of a consumer, that a consumer product is found to be injurious, unsafe or dangerous, it shall, after due notice and hearing, make the appropriate order for its recall, prohibition or seizure from public sale or distribution.”
The Senator from Isabela and Davao was further angered when Pascual insisted that DTI is not the agency responsible for the matter, stressing that DTI is only responsible for protecting consumers from goods that are hazardous and dangerous.
To reiterate DTI’s commitment to protecting consumers, Tulfo cited the agency’s budget request for 2023 of $443 million for the Consumer Protection Program and $82 million for the Consumer Education and Advocacy Program.
Tulfo said the Consumer Education and Advocacy Program is designed to help consumers learn that too much sodium in their diet can be hazardous to their health.
After hearing all these good reasons, Pascual agreed to take the matter up with the concerned agencies.