Myanmar's government announced it cannot guarantee safety of all imported food and medicine, especially from its neighbour China. Meantime Myanmar is flooded with Chinese goods, impotrted legally, and many of them are substandard if not harmful, Myanmar's traders say .
But the impoverished country's Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said it does not have enough resources to control the quality of all imported products, according to a report in The Myanmar Times - a weekly journal published Sunday.
"The FDA currently has only 100 staff, which is not enough to carry out strict monitoring processes to ensure the safety of the 50 million people in Myanmar," the agency's director, Dr. Kyaw Lin, told the Times.
Nevertheless the FDA's responsibilities will soon be expanded to include screening cosmetics, consumer goods and medical equipment, the journal cited Kyaw Lin as saying.
Myanmar imported nearly US$1 billion (EUR 734 million) worth of Chinese products in fiscal 2005-2006, while an unknown amount of goods cross the border illegally from its giant northeastern neighbor.
Last week China's Premier Wen Jiabao ordered food and drug safety bodies to make product quality a top priority after a series of scandals involving tainted food and drugs led to the recall or rejection of a slew of Chinese exports around the world.
Chinese officials, initially reluctant to acknowledge the problem, have vowed more stringent surveillance and a crackdown on the country's countless small, unregulated producers.
According to traders in Myanmar, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they feared reprisals from the country's repressive government, Chinese imports to Myanmar are cheaper but of a lower standard than the products China exports to the United States and Europe.
The Myanmar Times said China is the fourth biggest supplier of legal pharmaceuticals to Myanmar behind India, Indonesia and Bangladesh - but that unregulated drugs also cross the border illegally.
Dr. Maung Maung Lay, chairman of the Myanmar Pharmaceuticals and Medical Equipment Entrepreneurs Association, told the weekly that 10 to 15 percent of the pharmaceuticals available in the country are fake or flawed.
But poverty and a lack of awareness of the dangers of substandard or cheap medicine means the people of Myanmar continue to buy Chinese pharmaceuticals.
"People buy medicines imported from China because they are cheaper," a drug shop owner told The Associated Press.
"People are not educated enough to differentiate between a cheap drug and an expensive but potent one. Another reason why people go for cheaper medicine is because they are poor," another shop owner said.