FORMER senate minority leader Aquilino Pimentel called for more stringent and transparent tests on Turkish flour being imported into the Philippines in view of the lingering public concern over a report that it may be toxic.

Pimentel said further tests on the Turkish flour is necessary because of the fear expressed by non-government organizations (NGOs), like the People's Movement Against Poverty, that the use of the flour in pan de sal and noodles for sale to the public would endanger public health.

Pimentel also urged the government, particularly the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), to conduct the tests with the involvement and presence of the NGOs to further assure the public about the accuracy of the test results.

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He also said the Department of Health (DOH) and Department of Science of Technology (DOST) should also be included in the test process.

"A definitive statement on their findings should put a closure on this issue," he added.

Pimentel said he wondered why initially traces of mycotoxins had been detected on Turkish flour in earlier tests that were reported by the FDA although in its more recent announcements, no such traces are mentioned anymore.

"It could be that those subjected to the tests are new Turkish flour. Anyway, what is important is that impartial NGOs should witness the tests to erase doubts among the people that these tests are not bias," Pimentel said.

A prestigious world-wide medical publication, the Journal of Food of Istanbul University, has reportedly made similar findings as the earlier tests of the FDA on Turkish flour.

According to certain scientific studies, mycotoxins can cause hallucinations, skin inflammation, liver damage, hemorrhages, miscarriage, convulsions, neurological disturbances, and/or death in livestock and humans. They may also cause cancer. The best-known mycotoxins are aflatoxin, ergottoxin and the agents of mushroom poisoning.

Pimentel said he has yet to hear new Health Secretary Enrique Ona speak on the issue.

He urged Ona and his counterpart at the DOST to involve themselves and the NGOs concerned in the issue that affects the safety of the consuming public.

"Their official statements on the matter would help assuage the people that no danger to public health is posed by the questioned flour," Pimentel said.

He also urged the government to investigate the widely reported technical smuggling of Turkish flour through undervaluation.

A report by the Indonesian news agency Antara had said that Indonesian authorities already slapped anti-dumping duties on Turkish flour entering that country.

The claimed undervaluation of Turkish flour at Philippine ports is practically the same concern that had been aired in Indonesia over the sale of Turkish flour there at so-called "dumping prices."

Local millers complained that Turkish flour is being grossly undervalued through customs, cheating the government of millions of pesos in taxes and posing unfair competition to locally milled flour.

Pimentel said President Benigno Aquino III's drive against corruption would certainly get a big boost by the new Customss officials' stopping the reported undervaluation of imported Turkish flour.