Butter without Tamil: CAA says no problem

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A brand of butter from a multinational dairy company which is known for its full cream milk powder brand, has been released to the Sri Lankan market omitting the Tamil language in the product label but having the product details in Chinese, English, and Sinhala, 

Speaking to us, Consumer Affairs Authority (CAA) Executive Director Thushan Gunawardena said that this was a matter related to the Food Act, which is not under their (CAA’s) purview, as opposed to the CAA Act, which is. However, the Executive Director of the CAA said that on practical grounds, as long as one of the three languages (Sinhala, Tamil and English) is included, it is “fine”.

The aforementioned food and butter product label has, however, included the English language, apart from Sinhala and Chinese, instead of the Tamil language. 

Under Section 10(1)(a) of the CAA Act No. 9 of 2003, it is stated that all manufacturers, importers, distributors, and traders need to include the information on the maximum retail price, batch number, date of expiry, date of manufacture, net weight/volume, country of origin/country of manufacture, and date of repacking (for products which are imported in bulk and repacked or products manufactured and packed in bulk and repacked), and this “information shall be legibly printed in Sinhala, Tamil, and English languages on all packs, containers, or on the wrappers of all articles/goods specified”; and the schedule of goods that are specified is inclusive of butter. 

Explaining the matter, Gunawardena said that the inclusion of all three languages cannot be enforced since the small packets cannot display the description in all the said languages and such enforcement would not be reader-friendly to the consumer. “If one of the small packets has the description in all three languages, no one will be able to read anything.” 

Also, the Executive Director said that one of the official languages is to be added at the very least when releasing a product to the domestic market if it is a foreign product, while the name of the importer has to be included on the label or the sticker. 

“There are some products which carry English and Arabic excluding both Sinhala and Tamil languages,” said Gunawardena, highlighting that there are exceptional situations in certain instances. 

Furthermore, he said: “I can’t confirm, but this batch of products (already in the market) could have gone to another country and they (manufacturing company) could be bringing it (the rest of the manufactured products) here (to Sri Lanka) as well.” 

He said this emphasising that even though he cannot assure of what is being said, he assumes that there is a possibility that the aforementioned international dairy company might have manufactured a consignment to another country while the rest of the same consignment might have been imported to Sri Lanka. He said this is because these are international brands and such companies export their products to multiple foreign countries. Therefore, the products can possibly have printed descriptions in the relevant languages in order to cater to the markets of the countries that the exporters are targeting.

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