Fri, 05 Aug 1994

Consumer group wants new poison noodle case probe

JAKARTA (JP): The Indonesian Consumers Foundation (YLKI) yesterday demanded that the government reopen the case of poisonous instant noodles, saying that the public is entitled to know the full account of the case.

In order to prevent such cases from happening again, the government owes the public a detailed explanation on how dozens of people suffered from food poisoning after eating instant noodles, YLKI said in a joint statement with the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation.

In South Sumatra five people died of food poisoning originally believed to have been caused by substances from the noodle packets.

The first cases of food poisoning from noodle packets were first reported two months ago in South Sumatra. Some 69 people in Java, Sumatra and Sulawesi have since been reported to have fallen ill after consuming instant noodles.

The government, following weeks of investigation, declared last week that the case was closed and that there was no evidence that the noodles were the cause of the poisoning. Officials said the poison was likely to have come either from the cooking utensils or the water used during the preparation.

Police investigators said the poisonings were most likely to have been caused either by cyanide, corrosive cooking utensils or polluted water, poor sanitation, diseases or sabotage.

Both Minister of Industry Tunky Ariwibowo and Coordinating Minister for Political Affairs and Security Soesilo Soedarman even went as far as saying that they did not want to hear any further discussion about the case.

Lack of explanation

YLKI however said the government's explanation was far from satisfactory and demanded the case be reopened until it is fully resolved.

There was a lack of explanation and no confirmation as to what actually caused the poisonings.

The agency also presented new reports on victims of the "poisonous instant noodles", not only in South Sumatra, but in Ujungpandang (South Sulawesi), Situbondo (East Java), Yogyakarta, Cibinong and Tangerang (West Java) as well.

YLKI also questioned the decision by the manufacturer of the instant noodles to take out full page advertisements in a number of newspapers urging consumers to return their products if they turned out to have expired or the packaging was damaged.

This somewhat indicates that there is concern among the manufacturer and police that the poison originated from the noodles, the YLKI statement said.

YLKI said the removal of expired foods was in fact the responsibility of the producers and should not be seen as a kind gesture, as the commercial indicates.

The advertisement showed that there was a lack of controlling mechanisms on the part of the government and that it only became effective after people become victims, the agency said. (pwn)