Toxic shoe scare emerges after customs slip-up

COMPILED FROM WIRE SERVICES
ISTANBUL
Published 26.11.2014 16:37
Updated 27.11.2014 16:12
Toxic shoe scare emerges after customs slip-up

Authorities have warned citizens to examine cheap shoes after it was revealed on Tuesday that some 33,000 pairs of shoes imported from China were found to contain a chemical hazardous to human health.

Customs and Trade Minister Nurettin Canikli acknowledged that shoes are in the market illegally although an investigation is now underway. He warned the public to stay away from shoes sold at "suspicious" prices, cheaper than normal value. He said they were looking to find out where the shoes are being sold and remove them from the market.

The incident hit the headlines on Tuesday after officials announced that 33,000 pairs of shoes destined for destruction, which had been found to contain harmful chemicals, went missing. The shoes were at a customs warehouse in Istanbul before they were delivered to Kocaeli, a neighboring province of Istanbul where a disposal facility is located. Customs officials in Kocaeli, who were checking the contents of shoe boxes, found out that instead of brand-new shoes, they were full of torn, secondhand shoes, apparently not the toxic ones. Details of the investigation were not revealed but, obviously, the shoes were replaced with non-toxic ones at the customs warehouse where they were held.

Canikli told reporters that every imported product was subject to tests to determine whether they contained chemicals or other materials harmful to health, and shoes were among them. He said an administrative and judicial inquiry were launched and those responsible for the incident were "known." Responding to questions about the type of shoes, Canikli said it is not clear yet whether they were for adults or children. He did not disclose the brand either.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Hüseyin Çetin, president of the Turkish Shoe Manufacturers Association, said the incident proved the necessity of additional taxes on shoe imports. "Turkey has the capacity to manufacture 500 million pairs of shoes per year, number one in Europe. Yet, we can only manufacture 320 million annually due to growth in imports. Starting from August, the government imposed up to a 50 percent additional tax on shoe imports. This prevented entry of imports of unhealthy, low-quality shoes from China, Indonesia, Vietnam and other countries," he said.

Çetin said more "radical" measures are needed apart from extra taxes to prevent "greedy businesspeople ignoring health concerns."

"All shoes should be monitored against azo dyes and phthalates, two chemical substances known for their carcinogenic effects," he said.

The Ministry of Customs and Trade revealed images of the 'toxic shoes' on Thursday.

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