TANZANIA – The Tanzania Bureau of Standards (TBS) has announced that the recalled South African brand, Ceres apple juice might have been smuggled into the country via neighboring countries despite the government’s tight regulatory controls.
The regulator said it has dispatched a team of investigators to border posts to establish how the specified batch of the juice produced on June 14-30, 2021 found its way into Tanzania. Seven other countries have banned the beverage from their markets.
The juice, produced by SA-based manufacturer Pioneer Foods, was found to have elevated levels of Patulin, a fruit-based mould which according to the World Health Organization (WHO), when consumed can cause nausea, gastrointestinal disturbances, and vomiting.
TBS’ Quality Management director Lazaro Msasalaga told The Citizen that the authorities have formally blocked the juice from being imported into the country. He said that since October 13, TBS has been monitoring and carrying out inspections to establish possible importation of the juice.
“In our documents at TBS, no batch of the juice produced on those dates entered the country so far, but since Tanzania is bordered by countries where goods have already been imported, there is a possibility of smuggling,’’ said Mr. Msasalaga.
He informed that they have strengthened inspections especially at the borders across the country.
“If we find out that the juice is in the country we will follow up and legal action will be followed. We have agreed with the agent distributing the juice that when the consignment arrives, we will ensure the cargo does not enter the Tanzanian market, he has promised to cooperate,’’ he added.
The Member of Parliament for Special Seats, CCM through Tanzania Mainland Civil Society Organizations, Ms. Neema Lugangira, has expressed fears over the ability of TBS to ensure food safety. She lamented that TBS has been burdened with many responsibilities, claiming that it did not give weight to food safety in the country.
“TBS deals with tyres, and many other products. I think there has to be special focus on food safety,’’ she suggested.
Neema called for reforms and fast-tracking of the East African Community Protocol on Plant and Animal Safety (EAC SPS Protocol), which would help restructure the National Food Policy.
Gaps in products regulation
Gaps in regulation of food products entering the Tanzanian market have been noted in public entities charged with ensuring food safety.
The report of the Controller and Auditor General (CAG) on the audit of public authorities and other bodies for the financial year 2017/18 said that there existed products in the market in Tanzania which had failed crucial regulatory tests.
“I noted items which failed on crucial parameters during the surveillance and there were no actions taken by TBS. Also, there were items which failed crucial parameters and were already distributed to the market and no actions were taken by the bureau,’’ reads the CAG report.