A joint inspection exercise has busted an illegal cooking oil manufacturing firm in Limbe, Blantyre, which has been in operation for nine years, selling an uncertified product.
The operation was jointly conducted by Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA), Immigration Department, Malawi Police Service (MPS), Malawi Investment and Trade Centre (Mitc) and Malawi Bureau of Standards (MBS) in Blantyre.
Hitherto, MBS, a government agency which is supposed to enforce standards, was not aware of the illegal activities of the firm, whose products could be hazardous to people.
One of the employees at the oil manufacturing premises behind Limbe Market, who refused to disclose his name, said the cooking oil is supplied to businesspeople that operate restaurants in Blantyre, including vendors who fry Irish potato, as well as traders from Zomba, Mulanje and Thyolo.
The employee, who was found manually purifying one of the drums by the time of the inspection, said the business, which is owned by a Mulanje-based businessperson named Mr Raphael, was established in 2007 and manufactures cooking oil from soya beans.
He said that on a good day, they sell up to six drums of oil at K540 per litre, depending on demand.
Their product seems to be a little cheaper as a one- litre bottle of cooking oil in a shop sells at around K1 500.
But in an interview on Monday, MBS director general Davlin Chokazinga, while admitting that they did not have a clue on the malpractice, said they will engage their legal team because the law does not allow such type of businesses to happen.
“Now that we have discovered them, we are going to engage them to explain through our legal system. As MBS, we demand that all those who want to venture into such kind of businesses should register with us so that we properly assess their hygienic practices to ensure that we do not jeorpadise the lives of the consumers,” he said.
Chokazinga said by consuming this product, people risk their lives as it contains poisonous materials, adding that “even though they may seem cheap to buy on the market, they are actually the most expensive when it comes to dealing with complications arising from the consumption of such products”.
He, however, said that court battles remain some of the greatest challenges that MBS is facing in its quest to flush out illegal manufacturers, saying last year alone, the bureau received four injunctions.
Said Chokazinga: “We sometimes receive court injunctions for judicial review if we effect the law on such business even though we win many of them.