21 March 2019

Rwanda: Senate Seeks Expedition of Food and Drugs Authority

Operations of Rwanda Food and Drugs Authority (Rwanda FDA) should be expedited in a bid to ensure compliance with standards in the production of banana beverages, including alcoholic drinks and juice, the Senate has said.

In addition, the Senate has requested regular inspection of factories that make certified to make banana beverages in order to make sure that they comply with the set standards.

The resolutions were made on Wednesday as the Senatorial Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Cooperation and Security was presenting its report on the compliance with regulations for production of beverages from bananas and other crops.

Rwanda FDA was established February 2, 2018, with a mandate to enforce regulation for human and veterinary medicines, vaccines and other biological products, processed foods, poisons, medicated cosmetics, medical devices, household chemical substances, tobacco and tobacco products and conduct of clinical trials.

The responsibility requires the FDA to have a well-designed and strong system for regulatory compliance.

Senator Jeanne d' Arc Mukakalisa, Deputy Chairperson of the Committee while presenting the report on drink standards compliance to Senate plenary on Wednesday, March 20, 2019 (courtesy)

While Rwanda Standards Board (RSB) offers standard certification to manufacturers, it does not regularly follow up to ascertain whether firms stick to quality requirements, hence the need for the services of FDA, according to the Senators.

In other cases, after getting certification, some manufacturers reduce the amount of banana juice component and replace it with sugar, which senators said was a threat to the health of consumers.

"The labels used don't indicate the percentage or rate of the ingredients such as banana juice, sugar, and water contained in such drinks. You cannot tell the quantity of sugar in the drink," said Jeanne d'Arc Mukakalisa, the Deputy Chairperson of the Committee.

In addition, aflatoxins - toxins produced by certain fungi found in agricultural crops or produces because of poor post-harvest handling, pose a risk as they can cause liver disease or cancer warned Senator Emmanuel Bajyana.

"We need advanced equipment including advanced laboratories to process quality drinks," he said.

The committee began the evaluation on January 15, 2019, and visited 38 banana processing factories in 15 districts across the country.

Rwanda Standards Board (RSB) has 140 factories on its list making beverages from banana. As of June 2018, 53 banana and related beverages had been certified by RSB.

In the first outreach programme that the Committee made in 2014, members realised that substandard or illicit brews were one of the causes of insecurity in communities and domestic violence which sometimes escalated into deaths.

It believes that following up the implementation of the quality resolution in factories, can help address the problem it observed then, and guarantee that Rwandans consume quality products for the betterment of their health.

The committee found that some factories were certified yet they produced sub-standard products.

The evaluation found that factories are largely using rudimentary technology which lack advanced laboratories to effectively test quality.

Another challenge is that many factory entrepreneurs have budget constraints and they cannot therefore be able to buy the needed equipment such as machinery for cleaning bottles and bottling drinks.

However, the senators said that factories don't lack banana as 23 per cent of Rwanda's over 1 million hectares of arable land is occupied by banana plantations.

"The problem of alcoholic drinks being taken to the markets without conforming to quality is a serious one," Bernard Makuza, Senate President told The New Times, saying that this makes it necessary to enforce quality assurance measures.

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