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 in the Financial Year 2019/2020 during Unbs regular market inspections.
Unbs carries out routine inspections across the country in fulfilment of their mandate of enforcing standards in 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 food stuffs, cosmetics, electrical and electronic appliances, toilet papers, and construction materials, among others.
Unbs has noted an increase in the sale of expired products during the Covid-19 lockdown period mainly due to:
- Products overstaying on the shelves.
- Limited quality assurance by business operators.
- Fearing to make losses – since consumption has been low during the lockdown.
- Limited stocks to restock since production has been low during the lockdown.
- Loss of property and sometimes loss of lives: Substandard electrical and electric appliances 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 during the lockdown when we have children at home. Children can easily play with such open sockets and cables which could result into electrocution.
-Substandard cosmetics can cause skin cancers; substandard iron sheets can cause leaking within a very short time. Use of substandard cement and 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 include
-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 Programme (PVoC) . All importers are advised to embrace the PVoC programme.
The PVoC programme was put in place to protect the health and safety of consumers through reducing the importation of substandard products into Uganda. Under this programme, 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 - www.unbs.go.ug.
-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 perpetuators of substandard products will have no market.
Consumer tips: 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.
- Lookout for the packaging. If it is a packaged product; the packaging should be intact and well-sealed.
Ms Kirabo is the spokesperson,
Uganda National Bureau of Standards.