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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, March 27, 2003

Why state bans ferrets and gerbils

By Treena Shapiro
Advertiser Staff Writer

Q. Why is it legal to keep mice, rats, guinea pigs and rabbits as pets, but not hamsters, gerbils and ferrets? I know that ferrets sold on the Mainland have been sterilized, so why not allow them?

A. Department of Agriculture spokeswoman Janelle Saneishi said many animals are prohibited here because of the risk that they could become pests or compete with endangered or protected species for food and habitat if let into the wild.

Gerbils and hamsters could escape and establish huge colonies, but domestic mice, rats and guinea pigs are not likely to survive if they escape and are less likely than wild rodents to be disease carriers, Saneishi said.

Saneishi added, "Ferrets are not allowed to be imported because they are known to easily revert to their feral state and are voracious predators that could cause significant damage (if they run loose in the wild). They also pose a threat to native species, especially ground-nesting birds.

"While ferrets are kept as pets on the Mainland, several states and counties have banned ferrets as pets due to incidents of attacks on young children."

Saneishi said anyone interested in importing an animal should check with the state Department of Agriculture at 973-9560.

Q. Walk into any store and loaves of bread have colored twist ties. Supposedly, the color signifies what day of the week the bread was baked. But stores do not post signs telling you what days the colors stand for.

Aside from calling each bakery, is there any state office that can tell consumers what days the colors represent? Are the colored ties required by law? If yes, does the law also include informing the public?

A. Unfortunately, you'll have to inquire at individual bakeries, because the color-coded ties on bread are not regulated or required by the state. A Love's Bakery official, for example, confirmed that they do use color-coded ties to indicate day of baking.

Janice Okubo, spokeswoman for the state Department of Health, said: "State law requires that fresh milk products have open dating, and federal law requires some infant foods, like formula, to have open dating, but all other manufacturers' dating is voluntarily done. Consumers are advised that open dating is not a guarantee of freshness, because how a food item is stored after purchase can greatly affect its quality."

For further information on date coding for specific products, ask the manufacturer or call the Health Department's Food and Drug Branch at 586-4725.

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