11 November 2012

Tanzania: How Producers Get Rich Through Unchecked Bottled Water Brands

THE mushrooming of water brands floated in the market has been characterized by flaws which compromise the Tanzania Bureau of Standards (TBS) regulations that require all water suppliers to be registered and certified in the country.

An extensive survey by the 'Sunday News' in Dar es Salaam recently discovered that some brands including 'Umoja' brand, one of the largest suppliers of bottled water in the market and produced from the so-called Kisarawe hills, in Coast Region, is not registered by TBS though it bears TBS accreditation and logo.

The investigation further reveals that other brands which are not registered with TBS include 'Trina' Water produced at Mtoni Kijichi, Mbagala area in Dar es Salaam, 'Lulu' from Kibaha Town and 'Safina' which is produced in Dar es Salaam and sold in the market in the city. Our investigations also reveal that all these brands bear TBS accreditation.

TBS, on the other hand, provided a current list of 48 bottled water brands (we have the copy) which are registered and certified by the standards authority. But the mentioned brands (Umoja, Lulu, Trina Water and Safina) are not in the TBS list of certified bottled water brands.

Contacted for comment on the presence of the 'suspicious brands' in the market, TBS Corporate and Public Affairs Officer, Ms Rhoida Andusamile could not respond immediately. Instead, she requested this paper to provide them with the names of the brands which are in the market and do not appear in their list of certified bottled water brands "for further investigations."

She further wanted this paper to mention the names of the producers of the unregistered brands, and the places the bottled water brands are sold.Speaking to the 'Sunday News' over the phone, one of producers of the unregistered brands (Trina Water) said her brand had all the blessings from TBS before taking it to the market.

The producer, however, resisted to allow the 'Sunday News' team to visit the industry sited and take pictures. Trina Water Producer, supplies her drinking waters to various offices in Dar es Salaam including the Tanzania Standard Newspapers (TSN), the producers of 'Daily News', 'Sunday News', 'HabariLeo' and 'HabariLeo Jumapili'.

Earlier, a section of TSN staff had complained over the supplied bottled waters as not being hygienic. A simple test by the investigation team also identified that the waters had some impurities.The supplier provides to TSN the bottled water amounting to 424,800/- to 453,120/- per month.The rest of the producers of the unregistered brands could not be reached for comment.

Earlier, Ms Andusamile told the 'Sunday News' that it was illegal for anyone to sell bottled water without certificate of accreditation issued by TBS.She said all bottled water brands, according to TBS, fall under compulsory standard certificate of accreditation tested by TBS laboratory staff. "Legal actions will be taken against any manufacturer who is discovered to sell uncertified bottled water brands.

"All bottled water brands that are certified by TBS is tested using a TBS number such as TZS 574:2008," she said.However, our investigation revealed that the Umoja bottled water, one of the bottled water brand which is not registered by TBS (a sample of which we have) has a different number TZS: 574 contrary to TBS regulation.

In a survey carried out in the three municipalities of Dar es Salaam (Temeke, Kinondoni and Ilala) which involved 30 bottled water consumers, the respondents claimed that there are many bottled water brands that are circulating in the market ambiguously. Some bottles seem to be dirty and contaminated though they bear the famous brands recognized by TBS.

Several customers interviewed during the survey expressed their reservations regarding price of such water products and their quality, saying they were not sure whether the Maisha, Pangani and Lulu brands were endorsed by TBS.Mr Kishweni Mustapha, a customer in Dar es Salaam, noted that some products with famous brand labels taste nasty once you buy them out of town in some suburbs of Manzese, Kinondoni , Tegeta, Mbagala and others.

He also said that he believed the price for water was too high for an ordinary citizen. "I believe that the products sold by unscrupulous petty traders are impure and there is no system in place to track them down," he said.Kibonge Jacob of Mbagala said that some bottles containing water look dirty and even the water tastes weird and the smell awful.

Juma Athumani of Kariakoo complained that sometimes the three brands did not have any labels that showed where they were manufactured from.Some residents have asked the government to set up a policy that would ensure bottled water industries produced bottled water that is fit for human consumption.

In line with that, the residents asked TBS to stop offering unrealistic approvals to water producers before being satisfied of the safety and quality of the products."It is very hard to indentify fake bottled waters unless you drink it...and this is because almost all the bottled water brands bear TBS approval sign," says Mohammed Issa, a businessman at Kariakoo main business area.

"Such water (low priced) is sold to low income people who can not afford the high priced bottled water brands," he says.According to one John Ngilu, fake bottled water brands are delivered in the market due to lack of proper policy to ensure that producers meet the required standards.Some of the bottled water brands that are certified by TBS and sold in the market include Kilimanjaro, Uhai, Pangani, Maisha, Penguin, Masafi.

Speaking to 'Sunday News' in an exclusive interview in Dar es Salaam recently, the Fair Competition Commission (FCC) Senior Communications and Public Relations Officer, Mr Frank Mdimi, said so far there was no company that supplies water in the market that had lodged complaint on unfair competition with the commission.

Nobody representing the consumers has reported complaints on the bottled water brands sold in the market, he said."Investigations may originate from information provided to the Commission by the government, companies, or consumers," Mdimi said, adding that FCC was there to enforce the law. If there is any imitation of the product or infiltration of counterfeit bottled water products, such companies would have lodged a complaint to the commission immediately.

He added that the Competition Advocacy department will maintain the flow of information from the Commission to government, businesses, consumers, and will keep the Commission informed of initiatives and proposals coming out of the government.

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