Apples suspected of carrying bacteria still being traded in Indonesia's markets

Despite the government's ban on the sale of US-sourced apples suspected of being contaminated by Listeria bacteria, traders in a number of regions in the country were still selling the fruit on Friday.

In Bantul regency, Yogyakarta, traders said they could not determine whether the apples they were selling were contaminated by the bacteria.

Eliya Sunarti who sells fruit in Klodran, Bantul regency, Yogyakarta, said she received the apples from a supplier of imported fruit.

"As far as I know, this fruit is in good condition, the colour is also good and thus are safe to sell," Eliya told officials from the Bantul Regency Trade Industry and Cooperative Agency during a raid on Friday.

Head of the agency, Sulistiyanto, said there were indeed many shops in the regency that were still selling Granny Smith and Gala apples from California, in the US which are suspected of having the bacteria, despite the ban.

However, he said, his agency did not seize the apples.

"We told them to withdraw the fruit and not to sell to them to customers. We will take stern action only if they insist on selling them after being warned not to do so," Sulistiyanto said.

Data at the Provincial Food Security Network Team (TJKPD) showed that there were five apple suppliers in Yogyakarta. Since the government's announcement regarding the US-sourced apples, nearly 300 kilograms of suspect apples had entered the province.

However, in the raids conducted since Monday, only 32 kilograms of these apples had been detected or seized. They rest are thought to have been sold.

"Of the five suppliers, four said they had run out of stock," said head of Yogyakarta Provincial Food Security and Counseling Agency (BKPP), who is also chairman of the provincial TJKPD, Arofa Noor Indriani.

Considering the danger of the Listeria bacteria to human health, Arofa said her office would continue with the monitoring.

Any Listeria bacteria would be found on the apple skin and can lead to muscle spasms or diarrhoea if it enters the human digestion system.

"We urge people not to worry and to start loving local products," she said.

Similar raids for the US-sourced apples were also conducted in Nunukan regency, North Kalimantan, on cafes and fruit shops by the local Industry Trade and Cooperative Agency in cooperation with the Public Order Agency (Satpol PP).

Agency head Marnyalla Djollong said his office had found that the suspect apples had been consumed locally in juice form and as fresh fruit.

His agency had seized a quantity of Granny Smith and Gala apples from Bidart Bros, Bakersfield, California, the US, which were sold under the brands of Granny's Best and Big B and which are at the centre of a Listeria outbreak in the US.

Seizures had also been made by the Food and Drug Monitoring Agency (BPOM) in Manado, North Sulawesi, of Granny Smith and Gala apples traded in the city.

Head of the agency's monitoring section, Sukriadi Darma, said the apples were found in Golden, Multi Mart, Jumbo, Borobudur and Hypermart supermarkets.

"We will immediately destroy the apples as laboratory examinations take too much time," he said.