Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) has come under immense pressure after alcohol content was found in some soft drinks.
The Committee on Trade, Tourism and Industry has directed UNBS to withdraw their distinctive marks within 7 days on all the energy drinks and kombuchas which have violated the standard.
This comes after the National Drug Authority (NDA) Executive Director, Dr David Nahamya on Wednesday, 16 March 2022 presented to the committee findings of test samples of some carbonated and non-carbonated soft drinks and kombucha drinks to ascertain caffeine and adulteration levels.
According to the findings, four of the non-alcoholic kombuchas sampled in the market contained alcohol. These include; Kituzi (1.1 per cent), Power bank (4.4 per cent, Sabarara extra (10.3 per cent) and Entare sana (6 per cent). Similarly, some alcoholic kombuchas like Kabody coffee had 20 per cent alcohol levels, which exceeds the recommended 15% for alcoholic kombuchas.
“It is very dangerous to take a non-alcoholic drink thinking it doesn’t contain alcohol whereas it does. Imagine, our children, pregnant mothers, pastors, Muslims and other non-alcoholic persons have been consuming these products,” Mpaka said.
Whereas none of the 23 products sampled was found to be adulterated with inhibitors known to treat erectile dysfunction, some products like Mukama Nayamba, Power play, Sabarara extra, Akaboozi, Kabody coffee contained medicinal properties that reportedly enhance sexual potency and improve appetite.
“I am directing that UNBS within the next 7 days withdraws the distinctive mark on all the mentioned products and report to the committee. The regulator should also conduct a market survey of all the products within 2 months and also use the media to sensitize the public about these products,” Mpaka said.
The committee chairperson also warned UNBS against certifying companies that produce products with medicinal and pharmaceutical purposes, saying it is only the mandate of NDA to do so. Hon. Gaffa Mbwatekamwa (NRM, Igara West) explored the option of suing the responsible agencies for allowing these companies to continue producing products that are potentially harmful to the health of the consumers.
“So we have been consuming soft drinks yet they contain alcohol? Whom do I sue for this? It is now clear that we need to test all these drinks on the market. We cannot accept Ugandans to die because they are being misled to consume what they are not supposed to,” Mbwatekamwa said.
Hon. Michael Timuzigu (NRM, Kajara County) heaped the blame on UNBS for sleeping on the job and allowing these companies to continue producing products that could be harmful to the consumers. “It will be shameful for us to close these factories yet the agency that is supposed to regulate them is here. Let us give UNBS 2 months to rectify and check these factories to ensure compliance,” Timuzigu said.
Patricia Ejalu, the Deputy ED-Standards at UNBS told the committee that the regulatory body has already swung into action and suspended the production of some of the products in question.
“With reference to products mentioned and in particular kituzi, kabody, sabarara, power bank and akabozi, the first stage of suspension has already been done so they are not producing any more since January. But we are going to assess all kombucha products that are under certification to ensure that they are meeting the standards,” Ejalu said.
According to the report, all the 23 energy drinks samples tested complied with the functional caffeine limit of 320mg/kg in the carbonated and non-carbonated soft drinks standard, while 17 kombucha drink products showed presence of caffeine.
NDA ED, Dr Nahamya said that the significant caffeine content detected in most kombucha drinks denotes the need to regulate caffeine in all beverages and foods in the interest of public health. Unlike energy drinks, kombuchas have no standard limit for caffeine.