18 November 2012

Tanzania: TBs Issues Conflicting Information on Water Brands

Photo: The Daily News
Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda (third right) inspects a pharmaceutical factory in Dar es Salaam (file photo).

TANZANIA Bureau of Standards (TBS) has stammered over the registration of bottled Water manufacturers who were not in their certified list.

Two days after 'Daily News' published a story on bottled water brands that were not certified by the Tanzania Bureau of Standards (TBS), the standard watchdog surprisingly issued a public notice indicating that the same brands had after all been registered and certified.

On the previous list of 48 approved water brands availed to 'Sunday News' by the TBS Corporate and Public Affairs Officer, Ms Rhoida Andusamile, on which the story was based, Umoja brand did not feature. However, in an advertisement placed in a number of newspapers on Tuesday this week, three of the disputed brands appeared on the 'new' TBS list, which had 57 brands.

One of the brands still did not appear on the new list. 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 are 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 brands which was not listed earlier by TBS (a sample of which we have) has a different number TZS: 574 contrary to TBS specifications. It does not have the year of registration. Meanwhile, Umoja Drinking Water through their Lawyer's letter of November 13, 2012 have threatened to take legal action against Tanzania Standard Newspaper(s) in what they have termed publication of false and defamatory information.

"Please take note that your act of publishing the said false and defamatory information has seriously damaged our client's business with diverse repercussions," stated the letter. The company also demands that a formal written apology should be published on the front page in not less than half a page of TSN three consecutive newspapers acknowledging to have published false and defamatory information against Umoja Drinking Water.

It also demands that the newspaper should confirm Umoja Drinking Water has complied with all regulatory requirements and apologizing to producer, suppliers and consumers of Umoja Drinking Water for any damage they have suffered due to the publication of the said false information.

Further, the company demands that the newspaper should publish Umoja Drinking Water advertisement for free in the 'Sunday News' paper for a period of six consecutive months. And also TSN should pay 50,000,000/- for the immediate loss suffered by Umoja clients due to publication of such aforementioned false and defamatory information.

Reached for comments, the Acting Director General of TBS, Mr Leandri Kinabo, admitted that "one or two" water brands were not on the new list issued by TBS. Asked on why the standards watchdog had released a new list after this paper had made public trade names that were not on the list, TBS provided to 'Sunday News' earlier, Mr Kinabo fell short of explanation.

He only pledged that the standards watchdog would carry out inspections on water brands that had been disputed. "When there are complaints from the public it is our duty to conduct inspections to verify the claim by conducting laboratory tests even if the water has been certified by TBS. I have sent out inspectors to collect water samples and the results will be out by next week," Mr Kinabo told 'Daily News' in a telephone interview last Thursday.

On her part, Mr Andusamile admitted to have provided the initial list which did not feature the disputed water brands. In its publication last week, the 'Sunday News' reported that the mushrooming of water brands in the market has been characterized by flaws which compromise the TBS regulations that require all water suppliers to be registered and certified in the country.

The investigation also revealed that the other brands were not in the TBS list of certified bottled water brands even as they bear the TBS accreditation. Speaking to the 'Sunday News' over the phone then, one of producers of the unregistered brands said her brand had all the blessings from TBS before taking it to the market.

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.

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