Tue, 10 Jun 2003

'Jamu' workers call for BPOM raids to stop

Agus Maryono, The Jakarta Post, Cilacap, Central Java

Hundreds of jamu (traditional medicine) factory workers, including their children, staged a protest demanding that the Food and Drug Monitoring Agency (BPOM) stop its raids on factories in Gentasari village, Cilacap regency, which is the center of the jamu industry.

The protesters also called for the replacement of BPOM director Sampurno during a visit from legislators of House of Representatives' Commission VII for population and welfare.

The head of the Aneka Sari jamu cooperative, Johan Sarijo, said that about 80 percent of the 70,000 workers would lose their jobs as only 20 percent of the 600 factories continued to operate. Other factories had been forced to close due to the raids.

"Many workers have had to sell their motorbikes or other possessions just to feed their families," he said.

Since 1999, at least 100 brands of Cilacap-made jamu have found their way onto BPOM's black list. The agency suspects the factories of mixing medicinal herbs with other chemical substances, which could endanger consumers' health.

But a factory owner, Djasman, said that everyone in the jamu industry added chemical substances to their products.

"It's a lie if a factory claims that they don't mix the herbs with chemical substances," he said.

The legislators, led by Ahmad Sanusi Tambunan, promised to arrange a meeting between jamu workers, members of the management and BPOM at the House soon.