By Sylvia Kirabo
Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) recently destroyed 232 metric tonnes of substandard goods worth Shs2.5 billion. The products that were destroyed had been confiscated from across the country this financial year 2019/2020 during UNBS regular market inspections.
UNBS carries out routine inspections across the country in fulfillment of its mandate of enforcing standards in the protection of public health and safety, and the environment against dangerous and substandard products.
A substandard product is one that does not meet the general and technical specifications required by the standards and as such, is considered to be inferior or of poor quality. The most prevailing products include expired foodstuffs, Cosmetics, electrical and electronic products, toilet papers, construction materials among others.
UNBS has noted an increase in the sale of expired products during this COVID 19 lockdown period mainly due to;
- Products overstaying on the shelves
- Limited quality assurance by the business operators
- Fearing to make losses since consumption has been low during the lockdown
- Limited stocks to restock since production has been low during lockdown.
Dangers of substandard goods;
- Loss of property and sometimes loss of lives: Substandard electrical and electric products like extension cables, wires and sockets usually have open and unprotected outlets, no or a thin fuse, earth wire, small conductors and uncovered sockets
- Such faults can easily cause electrocution which may lead to loss of property and sometimes loss of lives especially now in the lockdown when we have children at home, children can easily play with such open sockets and cables which could result in electrocution.
- Substandard cosmetics can cause skin cancer
- Substandard Iron sheets can cause leaking in a very short time and use of substandard cement, steel products among other construction materials can lead to the collapse of buildings.
- Expired products such as food items are harmful for human consumption
UNBS interventions in the fight against substandard products;
- PVoC: The Imports Inspection and Clearance Regulation 2018, requires that goods covered by compulsory standards must be inspected in their country of origin before they are allowed on the market under the Pre-Export Verification of Conformity to Standards Program (PVoC).
All importers are advised to embrace the PVoC programme. The PVoC Program was put in place to protect the health and safety of consumers by substantially reducing the importation of substandard products into Uganda.
Under this program, all goods that fall under the compulsory Uganda Standards are inspected in the country of origin or export and are issued with a Certificate of Conformity (COC) for general goods or Certificate of Roadworthiness Inspection (CRW) for used Motor Vehicles after passing the inspection.
- Compulsory certification for all local products: The UNBS Distinctive Mark Regulation 2018, requires all locally manufactured goods covered by compulsory standards to be certified and issued with UNBS Distinctive Mark before they are allowed on the market. The list of goods covered by compulsory standards is available on the UNBS website.
- Increased public awareness and Consumer education to promote a quality culture among the population. Through this, the public can start demanding for quality products and the perpetrators of substandard products will have no market.
In order to avoid being a victim of substandard goods, consumers should consider the following while shopping;
- Look out for the UNBS Distinctive Mark on products before purchase. You can also download the UNBS App available on google Play Store. With the UNBS App, you can instantly find out if the product is genuine or not.
- Look out for the packaging if its a packaged product; the packaging should be intact and well-sealed. Avoid buying products with seals that have been tampered with.
- The public is advised to check expiry dates of products especially food products before purchasing. Do not buy a product whose expiry date has passed, you can’t guarantee the safety of such a product. Both the manufacturing date and best before date should be visibly displayed on the package.
- The physical address and contacts of the manufacturer should be displayed on the packaging of the product. Don’t buy any product whose manufacturer is not mentioned on the product package.
- Avoid buying goods from ungazzeted areas. It is hard to trace the seller in case of a complaint. Always buy from established outlets and demand for a receipt.
- Avoid shopping in dark hours of the night from hawkers. It’s in the night that substandard goods hit the market because of the darkness and everybody wants to get back home fast.
- Always report any distributor or dealer in expired or substandard products to UNBS on Toll free Number; 0800133133.Or WhatsApp line: 0713227580 or report to the nearest police station.
The writer is a Principal Public Relations Officer at Uganda National Bureau of Standards