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    Oct 08, 2015

    Supermarkets remove haze-linked APP's goods

    SUPERMARKET chains NTUC FairPrice, Sheng Siong and Prime Supermarket have pulled all Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) items off their shelves - including popular brands like Paseo tissue paper.

    The Dairy Farm group - which operates chains including Guardian, 7-Eleven, Cold Storage and Giant - has also stopped replenishing APP stock. It will continue to sell existing items till they run out.

    FairPrice made the first call yesterday morning, followed by the others later in the day.

    Their actions came after the Singapore Environment Council (SEC) temporarily suspended the green label of APP's exclusive distributor here, Universal Sovereign Trading.

    On Sept 30, the SEC had also asked 17 firms, including FairPrice, to sign a form to declare that they do not carry products from five companies, including APP, which are under probe for their possible connection to the forest fires causing the haze. The form also asks firms to state that they have not been convicted in any court in relation to the haze.

    SEC sent the same form to Prime, Dairy Farm and Sheng Siong. Yesterday, it also contacted Ikea, Unity Pharmacy and Watsons.

    Ikea said it does not buy from the firms being investigated. Unity signed the form yesterday. Watsons is still working with its suppliers and will make a decision soon.

    FairPrice carries two APP house-brand products and 16 other APP-related products including the Paseo, Nice and Jolly brands. All these items were pulled off shelves at over 290 FairPrice outlets, including Cheers convenience stores, by 5pm yesterday.

    Late last month, the National Environment Agency began legal action against APP and four Indonesian firms that it believes to be behind the burning.

    Seah Kian Peng, NTUC FairPrice's chief executive, said that the chain took some time to decide to pull APP's products and sign the declaration because "as a fair business partner, we reserved taking action pending further information and investigation by the authorities".

    The final decision was made, he said, after SEC temporarily restricted APP's green label certification.

    Mr Seah said APP's products would be reinstated if the company is found to be innocent and if it gets back its green label.

    The move to pull APP's products, he said, cost the chain "millions". "It does hurt us financially... but this goes beyond just the financial impact. I think it is the right thing for us to do, it is the responsible thing for us to do," said Mr Seah.

    APP's managing director of sustainability Aida Greenbury said the firm was "firmly against forest fires" and that it deployed 2,900 firefighters and fire-suppression helicopters to deal with the situation.

    "We understand why FairPrice feels the need to take urgent action...but accuracy is just as important," she said. "The fire situation is complex and both the Singapore and Indonesia governments and authorities are still investigating the situation."