MOST bakers make underweight bread, thereby cheating unsuspecting consumers. In a recent survey, the Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) established that some brands were below the stipulated weight by as much as 100g (a tenth of a kilogramme).
The few that had the correct weight did not meet the required labelling standards. UNBS picked bread samples from shops, supermarkets and bakeries.
The defaulters include Ntake Bakery, Engaano Millers Limited (Tip Top) and Kiddawalime Bakery, while Hot Loaf bakery had sub-standard labels.
This is happening at a time when bread prices have gone up from about sh2,500 per 1kg loaf to about sh3,500.
UNBS head of pre-package and prosecution Clovis Katuramu said: "We are aware that these bakeries produce underweight bread. We have tried to educate and sensitise them on the quality of bread, but some have refused to act accordingly."
"At times these people have errors in their machines. If we go back and find out that those very bakeries have failed to change, we will take tougher action. We shall arrest and fine them," Katuramu added.
An inspection done on Ntake bread on February 28, 2011, showed that the 1kg Family Katafali, 500g Katafali, 1kg Family Bus, Special and Brown loaves were underweight. UNBS advised them to address the non-conformities to avoid contravening the law.
Hot Loaf Bakery
The inspection was carried out on 14 January, 2011. It showed that the Sweet, brown, salt and special loaves of 1kg and 500g, passed the standard required weight.
However, their labelling was inappropriate. On their packages, the symbol appeared as Kg with a capital K, but UNBS said the symbol should appear in small letters (kg).
The inspection done on January 6, 2011 showed that the 1kg and 500g loaves were under weight. There actual average mass was low compared to the one described by UNBS. It was only the Bus Loaf of 500g that had the actual weight.
Engaano Millers Limited (Tip Top bread)
The inspection done on August 8, 2011 revealed that the sweet loaf of 1kg failed to meet the standards. The Buns, Scons, Mandazi, Salted loaf and Cake loaf passed the standards. However, they failed the labelling. Most of their products never had correct physical address well identified on the packs.
Daily Loaf Bakery
An inspection done on August 22, 2011 on Daily loaf showed that the Bus and Block loaves failed to meet the right measurements. UNBS said the family Bus and Family loaves were illegal quantity because they weighed 900g. The legal quantity is 1kg. The products also failed to meet labelling standards and did not have the physical address of the bakery.
UNBS advised all the bakeries to address the non-conformities on weight and labelling to avoid contravening the law.
What the bakers say
A number of bakers told Sunday Vision they would address the irregularities which, they said, was not intentional. Some said they had already made corrections.
Gaster Lule, the managing director of the Nalukolongo-based Ntake Bakery, said: "I cannot confirm that our bread meets the standards, but our policy as Ntake Bakery is to produce quality products that meet the UNBS required weight."
Lule, who is also the chairman of the Uganda Bakers Association, added: "This is because we do not want to cheat our fellow Ugandans because without them, we cannot be in business.
"We shall improve with time." Fred Kyalo, the production manager of Daily Loaf Bakery, said: "By the time UNBS carried out that survey our machines at the factory were faulty. But now, we have new ones, which produce quality bread. We do not produce under-weight bread intentionally. But we have improved."
The managing director of Kiddawalime Bakery, Charles Lwabulindi, blamed careless workers. "It was an error. At times the workers become careless during working hours and end up producing and packing underweight bread. Thank you for raising that issue, I am going to work on it," he said.
The Engaano Bakery (Tip Top) manager, Prafand Patel, also promised the problem would be addressed soon. "We are trying to improve, though things are not easy," Patel said. But Dan Marlone Nabutsabi, the coordinator Uganda Consumer Action Network proposed that companies making underweight bread be fined and blacklisted. "This will ensure that the health and safety of the consumers are protected, and that there is fair trade in the market place, since they are profiteering at the expense of the ordinary consumers," he said.
He said the Government should speed up the process of reforming commercial laws, including the Consumer Protection Law. "The draft of this law has been in the making since the mid-1980s. It has never been a priority to them (top government officials)," he noted.
WHAT THE EXISTING LAW SAYS
According to the Weights and Measures Act (last amended in April 2009), any piece of bread bigger than the size of a 100g bun must be either 250g, 500g or multiples of 500g.
Thus if a supposedly 1kg loaf is found to be 900g, both the manufacturer and seller have committed a crime and are liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding sh3,000 for every loaf made or sold, or to imprisonment for up to three months or both.
WHAT THE CONSUMERS SAY
Whereas a few consumers are aware that some bakers were manufacturing underweight bread, most of them did not have any idea. Mcleen Kunobwa, an accountant with Airtel, says: "I am about to give up on buying bread from supermarkets. It is very expensive yet it is tasteless and weighs less."
"These days bread is expensive, yet the quality is poor. It is no longer 1kg. Even the sweet bread is no longer sweet. There is less sugar," said Yosam Manafa, a social worker.
Suzan Nalukwata, a student at Kyambogo University, noted: "Bread makers indicate that it is 1kg, but when you carry it in your hands, you do not feel like you are lifting a 1kg loaf."