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Special Assignment

15th November 1998

The Sunday Times revelation on outdated food gets the Army cracking

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Operation food check

The Army has in structed all Brigades and Divi sions to check the expiry dates on their food rations and report to Headquarters on any outdated packs, following The Sunday Times Special Assignment report last week.

The report highlighted how outdated food rations were being issued soldiers fighting the separatist war. The report also pointed out that some of the food packages had no expiry dates at all. The packaging of some others were not suitable especially to be used in the ground conditions the soldier works in.

Brigadier Charles of the Directorate of Supplies and Transport commented The Sunday Times report had been an eye opener for many people. One Brigadier had told him he had never thought of checking the expiry dates of the food packs before. This Brigadier has now taken it to heart and instructed all his units to check their food stocks and report to him.

The Army Commander, Lt. General Rohan Daluwatte confirmed that the Brigades and Divisions have been asked to check on this and send a detailed report. On the initial reports they have received, the Commander said there have been no instances of outdated food packs being reported. General Daluwatte categorically said there is very little chance of outdated food items being issued to the soldiers. The only possibility he could envisage is that after issuing the soldiers had not consumed the food in time.

"The Service Co. of the Army which handles Supplies and Transport inspects all stocks before they are taken over", Gen. Daluwatte said. Even fresh rations have to be inspected. If any food items are found to be unsuitable, they should not be accepted. Even in the case of fresh meat, they could get it certified as bad and then it is discarded, the Army Commander explained.

Gen. Daluwatte said he personally inquires about the soldiers food when he visits the operation areas. He has not received any complaints. "Every unit commander is concerned about the food his soldiers are given, Gen. Daluwatte said. "Sometimes, there are some disgruntled elements who try to create problems by complaining", the Commander added. The problem they face at present is the shortage of transport to take the food to the North. However, he said that when fresh meats or fish cannot be supplied, they send canned fish or meat items for them. The Commander was confident that the meals the soldiers are issued are of a high standard.

No false statements

Hiranthi Fernando who researched and wrote the Special Assignment responds:

We note that the facts given by us have not been disputed. The complaint is of insinuation that Glucose supplied to the Army is outdated and such supplies are made intentionally.

We maintain that we have made no such insinuations nor false statements in our article. At no stage in the article is it stated that the Glucose was in fact outdated or that outdated supplies were made by Glaxo either intentionally or unintentionally. We merely stated the facts known to us. As stated, since the soldiers complained about the Glucose, we had a sample tested. The test report was quoted verbatim. We noted the figures printed on the sachet of Glucolin, which we assumed was either the date of manufacture or expiry. We questioned the Marketing Manager of Glaxo Wellcome Ceylon Ltd., in this regard and his explanation was given the same prominence. He did not inform us of the date of manufacture of this batch although we asked him the question. We made our comment that it seems strange that the individual sachets should carry the date of manufacture of the sachets rather than the expiry date of the contents. As regards the packaging of the Glucolin, our point was that it has to be kept in mind that a soldier who uses it does not have ideal storage facilities to prevent contamination. He uses the packs when he goes out to the jungles on operations. As such we suggested that it may be more advisable to have it in smaller packs which can be consumed immediately once it is opened..

With regard to supplying Glucose to an outside contractor, this was stated by the officer handling the supplies at the Army in an interview.

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