TBS on the spot as bad apple juice expose food quality flaws

Saturday October 16 2021
TBS PIC

Packets of Ceres apple juice. PHOTO | COURTESY

By Herieth Makwetta

Dar es Salaam. The Tanzania Bureau of Standards (TBS) said yesterday the toxin-contaminated ‘Ceres 100%’ juice from South Africa may have been smuggled into Tanzania via neighbouring 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 when consumed can cause nausea, gastrointestinal disturbances, and vomiting, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

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.

“We have strengthened inspections especially across borders across the country and if we find out [that the juice is in the country] we will follow up and legal action will be followed,” he told The Citizen in Dar es Salaam.

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“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 (NGOs), Ms Neema Lugangira, has expressed fears over the ability of TBS to ensure food safety, saying it 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,’’ suggested, calling for reforms and fast-tracking of the East African Community Protocol on Plant and Animal Safety (EAC SPS Protocol), which would help reform the National Food Policy.

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 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.

On Monday, Pioneer Foods, the beverage maker, recalled its Ceres apple juice brands that were sold in the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa countries due to contamination by the mould toxins.

“In view of the foregoing...the Commission informs the general public to exercise caution and avoid purchasing or consumping the products,” said Comesa’s Competition Commission in a statement.

“If the above products were already purchased, consumers are advised to return the products where they were purchased for a refund or replacement.”