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ESS served old salmon after clerical error

February 7 2013, 13:40

By Laura SULEIMENOVA

Ak Zhaik reporters got hold of evidence that ESS Support Services, a TCO contractor, partially owned by KazMunayGas-Service [40%], had been giving old salmon to rotational workers.

As per the certificate issued by Norwegian Food Safety, 552 boxes of frozen salmon with overall weight of 18 tons were shipped to ESS at Tengiz.

The papers provide HALLVARD LEROY AS (Postboks 7 000 5020 Bergen) as the shipper’s name - a company founded in Norway in 1939 that focuses on fish and seafood sales.  

We took a picture of a box label from the lot and the date of production shown there is November 4, 2011.

The content was best before November 7, 2012, i.e. within 12 months, providing the storage temperature is minus 18oC and below.

Judging by the Norwegian papers the salmon crossed the Russian border on March 6, 2012.

What was shocking is the date the Kazakh certificate was issued– November 5, 2012 – the day when, as our sources reported, there remained just over 3 tons of salmon at the ESS storage facility.

According to the text in the certificate, the lot was approved after examination of fish samples conducted by the oblast branch of the Republican Veterinarian Laboratory under the Committee of Veterinarian Control and Supervision [RVL].   

‘No date of expiration’ states the conclusion by Kanat SAGINOV, chief expert of Zhylyoi District Inspection of RVL.  

“Yes, I signed it. But I can’t remember why I wrote down that conclusion” he says.

We asked Zhayazhan BAYAMIROVA, the head of veterinarian department of Atyrau City Inspection of RVL, if it’s acceptable for fish to have no due date.

“If frozen fish is stored in proper conditions, in required temperatures, it may be kept for up to six months. After that period another test should be taken and a report is compiled. For that a health inspector visits the storage place and checks refrigerators and the temperature.”

- What happens if a product turns out to be of poor quality?

- They compile an act and get the food destroyed. Last time we did that was August – 15 tons of meat from the warehouses of Assyl Agro LLP was burnt down.

- Is it correct to write on food it has no date of expiration?

- We normally write – “sales unrestricted”.

In the Veterinarian Control and Supervision Inspection of Atyrau Oblast they also referred to the wrong expression in the conclusion issued by their colleagues from Zhylyoi.

Deputy Head of Inspection Galymbek BISSENGALIYEV and food safety director Nurolla SATENOV see the problem lies in the great volume of work and fast-moving changes in the standards after Kazakhstan’s joining the Customs Union with Russia and Belarus.

- I remember warehouse personnel raising a disturbance last October. After that ESS reps approached us to prolong the permit for those products. I am sure everything was ok with them. They are a major international company with a normal temperature in their warehouses.

- Judging by your words you work on trust? You do not check service companies, but they come to you, right? Is such a practice justified when it comes to food safety of thousands of people?

- It is a normal practice. They approach us because they need safety of their products confirmed. We may not go and check them. Besides, there is the customs which checks all the cargo. Moreover, nobody was poisoned.

We received answers to the rest of our questions in the company itself. According to Klara DAULETOVA, ESS Procurement and Supplies manager, a Dutch vendor had delivered salmon in three lots, which were produced on different dates: in July, November 2011 and March 2012.

“We made an order in February 2012, and the delivery started in March. Normally, producers provide expiration period of 12 months from the day of production. Therefore our department deals with procurement only and the goods are delivered to Tengiz. We here did not know the salmon had different dates of expiration. In Tengiz, they must have failed to notice it because of the large volumes. Once we received the news, we liaised with the vendors, which, in their turn, requested explanation from the producer. The latter admitted we were right and promised to compensate our expenses if the fish was unsuitable. At that moment, we still had nearly 3 tons of November and over 800kg of March salmon. The July one had been eaten. Lab analysis showed the fish was very good. Providing that we consume 500kg a week it may be eaten with not restrictions. By now we have finished it.”

- So it happened that in this case employees demonstrated their attentive behavior?

- Not completely. It was me who revealed the fact by checking in advance how much fish was left at the warehouse with the purpose to order the next lot. We discovered that expiry dates at the boxes were different although they all had been accepted with a single date of expiration – March 2013. By the way, we will be ordering imported salmon from a local supplier starting this year.

So, the salmon, which is no matter how you look at it, is of doubtful quality was eaten up and everybody is safe now.

Hopefully, they will be as lucky in future as they were this time.

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