THE number of counterfeit products has escalated, putting consumersâ€™ lives at risk.
â€œThe increase of sub-standard products is due to low levels of awareness among traders, consumers, government officials and policy- makers,â€ the Uganda National Bureau of Standardsâ€™ quality assurance manager, Deusdedit Mubangizi, said.
â€œThere are also the non-deterrent archaic laws and low penalties for people we find with such goods. Recently, we impounded 260 cartons of expired beer, took the culprit to court and the fine was sh3,000, while the one who had 800 bags of adulterated cement was charged sh30,000,â€ Mubangizi said.
He said poisonous and mutated edible products have flooded the market.
â€œIn the last two weeks, we discovered deadly small torches that were in a container of ball-gum sweets,â€ Mubangizi said.
He said the torches have high intensity light, which can cause blindness.
â€œIf a child puts it near their eyes, they can easily get blind,â€ Mubangizi said while presenting a paper, â€œThe importance of standards and quality assurance in trade promotion and consumer protection,â€ at a workshop for district commercial officers at Shangrai-La Hotel in Kampala.
â€œAnother type of torch has got sweets inside but uses a cell. If a child eats these sweets, they can die because the torches are kept in humid conditions, which make the cell leak into the sweets,â€ Mubangizi said.
He said the sub-standard electrical materials include cables, conduits, sockets, switches, bulbs and tubes.
â€œWe have got increasing imports of counterfeit products with names like Philibs instead of Philips, SQNY instead of Sony,â€ Mubangizi said.
For cables and wires, there are fake conductors where copper used for the cables is abnormally darker in colour and has a higher resistance capacity. This makes the cable heat up easily.
There are also under-size conductors with few numbers of strands plus sub-standard insulators that are under-size and of poor materials.
â€œI have just seen a connection cable for televisions and flat irons that caught fire. The words on the plug say its is fused. A good plug must have screws, but this one that caused the fire was soldered,â€ he explained.
â€œSuch plugs increase resistance in the cable by 20 or 30 times and in three minutes, it is hot. In one hour, it turns brown and burns up,â€ Mubangizi said.
Some plugs for extension reels (cables) imported from China show that the plug is fused, but the inner parts have no screws. After opening, you find no fuse. The conductors are also soldered onto the plug pins.
He also said the number of butchers who have underweight stones of one and two kilogrammes is rising.
â€œThey cut at the bottom of the stone. As a result, the weight of the stone reduces, meaning you get less,â€ Mubangizi said.
â€œOther goods include steel products like re-enforcement bars, ring wires, profiled sections, undersize iron sheets, re-labelled iron sheets, wrong chemical compositions, while cement is adulterated or underweight,â€ Mubangizi said.
He said some of the sources of the sub-standard products are imports from countries especially Asiaâ€™s fast-growing economies. â€œOur traders go to those countries looking for cheap products from which they make a lot of profits,â€ Mubangizi said.
Locally, unscrupulous people manufacture products illegally and others adulterate original products.
He said the quality of imported batteries is different.
â€œThe problem is, we donâ€™t have the capacity to test all batteries in a container. We also have sub-standard shoe polish and Bic pens that have a Kenya label whereas they are from China,â€ Mubangizi said.
â€œRecently, over 30 people died from poisonous waragi. These illegal manufacturers used methanol, which is meant for making medicines instead of using ethanol. Others mix the two,â€ he elaborated.
However, we are to register all those involved in this malpractice and educate them on how to make the right quality,â€ Mubangizi promised.
He said inadequate capacity in import inspection, lack of transport, understaffing, lack of laboratory equipment for testing goods such as tyres and circuit breakers was also responsible for the sub-standard goods.
Other causes include poor public relations and lack of proper offices.
Fake, deadly products increase