The Sunday News
Njabulo Bhebe, Business Reporter
AUTHORITIES have raised a red flag over numerous maize meal brands, mostly imports, which have recently flooded the local market, saying some of them might be hazardous to consumers’ health.
Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers president Mr Denford Mutashu said there was a danger that most of the mealie-meal that is finding its way into the country from neighbouring countries was sub-standard and likely to compromise the health of consumers.
There has been an influx of numerous brands of maize meal mostly from neighbouring countries such as South Africa, Zambia, Mozambique and Botswana as individuals and companies resort to importing the commodity owing to an adverse shortage of the commodity on the local market.
“We have noticed that there is a lot of imported mealie-meal that has hit the market and we don’t know if it has been verified and suitable for consumption without causing any implication to the consumers or whether it’s coming from certified millers from those countries. In the midst of this drought we should also be very worried and prudent and alive to the fact that we cannot just consume anything and everything that ‘looks like mealie-meal’ as it will be detrimental to the future generation,” said Mr Mutashu.
He said his organisation was putting in place measures to ensure that only certified maize meal was sold on the formal market.
“We will put in place robust monitoring checks and balances especially at our ports of entry to ensure the quality of roller meal coming in is in accordance with the quality we used to know before the subsidy. Value chain players are key in ensuring that mealie-meal, which meets the required standard comes into the country,” said Mr Mutashu.
International Standards and Systems consultant Mr Sebastian Zuze said the Government should ensure that the health of its citizens was not compromised.
“The issue of selling sub-standard products in the country is now a legal issue given that the country now has a Consumer Protection Act that guards against such trends. Government must now ensure that a quality certificate is brought upfront by the supplier and when the mealie-meal comes in, it should be taken into laboratories for quality testing and if it fails to meet the required standards it must be rejected,” he said.
Consumer Council of Zimbabwe Matabeleland regional manager Mr Comfort Muchekeza said consumers were resorting to purchasing any brand of mealie-meal without bothering themselves about standards due to desperation since the commodity was scarce on the market.
“When individuals buy mealie-meal for resale they buy sub-standard products because of (low) pricing. What consumers should take note of is that any product, which is coming into the country should have a seal of approval from the country of origin. Other countries have the sub-stamp, like the South African Bureau of Standards, even Zambia has also its standards association, which looks at products and approves them. This will enable us to avoid a situation where we find our market flooded with substandard products,” he said.
In 2015 Government mandated a French firm, Bureau Veritas to carry out a Consignment Based Conformity Assessment (CBCA) programme as an interim measure pending enactment of the Standards Bill, which, if passed into law, will see the establishment of a Quality Standards Regulatory Authority.
The CBCA programme was introduced to curb the influx of sub-standard, harmful and potentially dangerous products in an effort to protect consumers and the environment. Industry has over the years queried the effectiveness of Bureau Veritas claiming that a number of substandard products were still finding their way into the country.