Consumers Association of Malawi (Cama) has urged consumers to check for Malawi Bureau of Standards (MBS) certification on bottled water brands, saying consuming uncertified bottled water is a health hazard.
Speaking in an interview last week in the wake of the proliferation of the water bottling business in the country, Cama executive director John Kapito also asked MBS to quickly identify the unscrupulous producers of bottled water.
He said: “We need to handle this issue with urgency. The bureau should make sure that any company in bottled water business has got the right equipment and finding out where their plants are located.”
Kapito said Cama noted the risks underlying the proliferation of water bottling companies on the market and took up the matter with MBS months ago.
He said MBS assured them that any bottling company will be getting a precertification certificate before entering the market.
However, Kapito said: “But it is an issue that has been delayed. We expected it to be done some months ago. I will still remind the bureau on the matter because there is just too much bottled water on the market. Everybody is producing water. Even those that are not registered.”
Weak regulation of the water bottling business has left Malawians at risk of dying of diseases caused by unsafe water as markets are being flooded by substandard brands.
Last year, MBS suspended about three water brands because of poor quality, according to MBS director-general Davlin Chokazinga.
When asked on progress towards certifying the producers and protecting consumers from potential health hazards, Chokazinga said MBS has certified about 15 water bottling companies at the moment.
He said: “Last year, we suspended two or three companies in Lilongwe that I know, but the companies have worked so hard to rectify the problems and come back on the market.”
Chokazinga refused to release the list of certified water brands, saying he cannot do so without prior consent from the producers.
However, The Nation has seen numerous brands on sale, including Aqua+, which MBS suspended.
On Tuesday last week, the water brand, with bleached wrappers and an inkpad ‘pre-certification’ stamp, were spotted on sale at Uliwa and Nyungwe trading centres in Karonga and Chitimba and Chiweta in Rumphi.
Chokazinga expressed surprise at how the low-quality brand, Aqua+, suspended six months ago, had found its way back on the shelf.
“This company was producing from Lilongwe-Mchinji Road. We withdrew all their water from the market; I believe some dubious people have just stolen their packaging materials,” he said.
There are also several dubious water brands with no quality certification seals on shelves across the country.
Chokazinga cautioned consumers not to rush for any bottled water on the streets, but instead check for its authenticity if in doubt.
“Supermarkets do not accept bottled water that does not have MBS blessings. Whoever is producing water must show objective evidence that the bureau has accepted the quality,” he said.
Chokazinga said the legal requirement before giving certification mark is to give water bottling companies precertification after passing MBS’s quality test awaiting certification mark which takes four times testing to assess consistency of their production. n