On the 16th of June, 2021, at around 3:30 PM, four officers accompanied by a driver arrived at the home of small business owner, Mr. Annandram Persaud, and seized over 1000 bottles of brand name Brazilian perfumes and perfumed products valued at more than 4 million Guyana dollars. The names of the Food and Drug Officers who conducted the operation are: Carol Edwards, Triston Jones, Jennel Rodney, and Suzanna Atkins.
After requesting and being satisfied with seeing business registration, import license, import taxes receipts, and that the products were stored under satisfactory conditions, the officers seized all the products on the basis that they were not labeled in English but were labeled in the Portuguese Language. On the inspectorate seizure form, they stated that the products were seized for “foreign language labels.”
The Court Case
The businessman has since moved to court to challenge the action of the Food and Drug Department so as to recover his products and make a claim for financial damages. The court process has initiated and the Food and Drug Department has already been notified by the court and the businessman’s lawyer.
On the Food and Drugs Regulations Document, which is based on the Food and Drugs Act (Cap: 34:03), the only requirements given for the labeling of cosmetics are as follows:
The net contents in ml.
The name and address of the manufacturer
The generic name or function unless the function is obvious
The batch number.
The products that were seized by the Food and Drug Department all fulfill the above mentioned requirements. In the entire Part 5 (Cosmetics Section) of the Food and Drugs Regulations document the word “English” is not mentioned once. In other words, there are no requirements that the products be labeled in English. Further, there is no general rule in Part 1 (Administration Section) of the Food and Drugs Regulation which state that the all references to label automatically implies labels in English. It does state that all references to labels implies “clearly written” labels, but not that it means English. The word “English” mentioned 13 times in the entire Food and Drug Regulations document. In other words, when it is demanded that something be written in English, that is specified.
Unhelpfulness and the Unroyal Push Around
The Food and Drugs Department went to great lengths to deter the businessman from being able to fulfill the requirements to recover his products. The regulations document states that, in the event that products do not fulfill the labeling requirements, a time period of 3 months is given to recondition or relabel the products. However, the Food and Drugs Department made this impossible by demanding that the factory in Brazil write a notarized to them (the Food and Drugs Department) authorizing the businessman to relabel the products. The businessman was not able to accomplish this since he buys from representatives of the factory of “Consultants” of the factory and does not have direct contact with the factory. The representatives contacted the factory and related that the factory is unwilling to translate or engage in legal processes for such small quantities of export. There is no law in the Food and Drug Act (Cap 34:03) or the Food and Drug Regulations that says that the factory must give written permission for the relabeling of a cosmetics. Third party qualified translators, such as the Brazil Embassy in Guyana and the Center for Brazilian studies, were willing to translate the labels, but the Food and Drug Department made this impossible with their demand that the factory must send a notarized letter to them.
Evidences of Corruption
The Director of the Food and Drug Department, Mr. Marlan Cole, related to the lawyer of the businessman that he was not aware of the seizure of the products by his officer, but was made aware several days or sometime later. This reflects a serious breach of protocol and betrays underhandedness. A search and seize operation as unique and controversial as this was supposed to have been discussed with the Director prior to the seize operation. However, it was not. This leads people that speculate that the operation might have been grounded in targeting and corruption. Perhaps the officers in the operation, Carol Edwards, Triston Jones, Jennel Rodney, and Suzanna Atkins, were paid off by a competition seller of Brazilian products who would later purchase the “stolen” products at a highly reduced price – thus gaining more traction in business while destroying the competition. This is just a speculation. However, it is an educated speculation since this was the first time in decades that the Food and Drugs Department seized cosmetics for foreign labels.
History of Cosmetics Imports in Guyana
Brazilian cosmetics with Portuguese labels were being imported into and sold in Guyana since the early 1960s with no impediments from the Guyana Revenue Authority or the Food and Drugs Department. The Guyana Revenue Authority in Lethem never blocked cosmetics with Portuguese labels prior to June 2021 from entering the country. In fact, the always accepted import taxes and allow the products to pass. ;Several weeks after seizing the products from Mr. Persaud, the Food and Drugs Department instructed the GRA at Lethem to stop accepting Portuguese labeled cosmetics from Brazil into Guyana, and they complied – the first time in over 60 years.
Underhandedness Reflective of Corruption
When the four officers of the Food and Drug Department seized the 4 million dollars worth of Brazilian products from the businessman, they did it in a “hush hush manner.” No media release was made. However, this publication put their unlawful act on full blast, and it attracted a lot of attention. After that, the Food and Drug Department were in meetings for the next three days decided how they would dig themselves out of the hole they put themselves in. The Director, Marlan Cole, was informed, and they subsequently made a poorly written and badly punctuated press release stating that all cosmetics must be labeled in English without being able to justify it from the law. Instead, Marlan Cole made some gibberish reference to Regulations 99. Regulations 99 states that “all cosmetics must be labeled as follows.” Following are the requirements: net contents in ml, batch number or lot number, name and address of manufacturer, and name or function unless the function is obvious.
Marlan Cole expressed to the lawyer of the businessman that although he did not authorize the seizure of the products, nor was he aware of it, he felt compelled to “support” the actions of his officers after he found it. Does that raise some eyebrows?
Refusal to Hand Over Regulations Document.
After the Food and Drug Department had seized these products, the businessman asked, on several occasions, to purchase a copy of the regulations document from the Food and Drug Department. However, he was told on two separate occasions that the regulations document is out of print since it is being updated. So, if you don’t have an accessible Regulations Document in force, then on what basis are you seizing products?
Updating the Regulations Document
Since the Food and Drug Regulations Document currently does not stipulate that cosmetics must be labeled in English, and the corrupt officials at the Food and Drug Department are desperate to cover their tracks, they might seek to update it by adding that all labels mean labels in English or that cosmetics must be labeled in English. However, if this change is made, then the Food and Drug Department has automatically lost the court case since the change will imply that it was not clear in the previous version, and they seized based on the previous (old version) since the updated version cannot be applied retrospectively.