x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Counterfeit goods remain 'major problem'

Officials say thousands of fake items seized in Sharjah can potentially be harmful to people who buy them.

SHARJAH // The trade in illegal, dangerous or counterfeit goods remains a serious challenge to authorities working to rid the emirate of substandard products, senior officials are warning.

The municipality is working with police and immigration officials to ensure all goods are inspected and all sellers are operating legally, said Eng Jaafar Ali Jaafar, the director of market inspections at Sharjah Municipality.

He said this year they had seized 21,870 pirated CDs and 127 dangerous toys banned in the UAE.

"Such toys, including plastic guns and others coated with lead, could damage children's eyes and are all banned in the market," he said. "The illegal vendors find ways of carrying them, because they don't undergo inspections as they start their work."

Fifteen cartons of fireworks were also seized by the municipality, Mr Jaafar said.

He added: "The practice of vending [unlicensed products] is illegal in the emirate, but has continued being done in several places." .

Substandard food was also in the sights of inspectors, he said. They confiscated a lorry containing a tonne of biscuits, 60kg of fish, 18kg of laban milk, 185kg of laban yoghurt, 88kg of powdered milk, 185kg of peanuts and 72 cartons of vegetables that would not pass health inspections.

Mr Jaafar said the municipality issued fines to violators starting at Dh1,000 and would close the shops of repeat offenders.

"All the seized products were destroyed," he said.

"Our inspection campaigns continue throughout the emirate to find violators."

Some residents said the problem was getting worse.

"We ask authorities to get strict on these vendors by prosecuting them to help ensure quality products on the market," said Adel Ziad, who added that many unlicensed vendors were selling cigarettes, chewing gum, water and nuts along the seaside.

And he said sometimes children were being forced to hawk goods in Sharjah.

"Some children are in the company of their parents and others are not," he said. "The child vendors are a dangerous development, which lends itself to child exploitation and abuse."

Authorities also said they were working hard to curb the practice of children being used as vendors.

"We are very strict in trying to find these children and help them in any way we can, so that this illegal practice of forcing children to work does not spread," said Brig Dr Abdullah bin Sahoo, director general of Sharjah Department of Naturalisation and Foreign Affairs.

"We have, in the past, had several crackdowns on illegals and found that the children were mostly found working as beggars or garbage collectors, and were children of illegal parents who couldn't find work."

He urged the public to call the department's toll-free number, 80080, if they suspect a child is being forced to work.

ykakande@thenational.ae