The Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) last week listed 56 products and warned the Ugandan public against using them. According to the national standards body, the products that include cosmetics, toilet and facial tissue brands, mattresses and bulbs are substandard and should not be on the market.
This warning follows the July market surveillance by UNBS, which resulted in the destruction of more than 400 metric tonnes of products worth Shs3.5 billion that failed compliance tests. According to UNBS executive director Dr Ben Manyindo, the surveillance is aimed at encouraging the public to know these products and shun them.
This is no doubt a positive step by the standards body since their core role is to provide sustainable standardisation services. It is the reason UNBS continues to inspect and seize substandard products from the market – mainly to protect the health and safety of consumers.
While we applaud the periodic surveillance by the standards body to ensure consumers are protected from substandard products, and the public sensitised about the dangers of consuming counterfeit goods given the potential health hazards, it important that a sustainable solution is found beyond the routine checks, listing of fake goods, seizing and destroying them.
We have had several good seized and destroyed in the past. For instance, police recently carried out an operation against counterfeit products in Kampala in a joint week-long crackdown by the UNBS, Uganda Revenue Authority and Uganda Registration Services Bureau, which saw assorted goods including oil lubricants, foods, mattresses, electronics and books impounded.
That shortly after the joint operation, UNBS inspectors again found several substandard products on the market, with cosmetics registering the highest failure rate at 100 per cent after analysis at UNBS laboratories, points to a bigger problem. The routine checks, while helpful, will not rid our market of substandard goods.
The current approach is to identify and list substandard goods, impound them from traders and display them for the media and the general public before destroying them and issuing warnings. While UNBS is playing their role by warning the public about the dangers of counterfeit goods and destroying the goods impounded from traders, the standards body cannot solve this problem through routine checks alone.
As we have pointed out before, we must pay keen attention to monitoring the quality of goods that enter Uganda and, in equal measure, ensure locally manufactured goods conform to set standards. Stopping counterfeit products from entering the market is a more realistic approach than getting rid of them from the shelves.