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Opinions Fri, 22 Jul 2011

GSB and FDB’s duplicating inefficiency

Raymond Ablorh

On

Friday, March 25, 2011, the Foods and Drugs Board (FDB) released a list

of 28 companies which flouted the Board’s regulations. The

blacklisted companies, as reported by an Accra based radio station, are

as follows; Triumphant filtered water, Unique mineral water, Icon fresh

drinking water, Safari filtered natural water, Crystal snow drinking

water, Big star drinking water, Rockman drinking water, Eye Ewurade drinking water,

Tak-top filtered drinking water, and Flori filtered water. The others are, Hollow

filtered drinking water, Enyinda

natural mineral water, Principles filtered drinking water, Future

drinking water, NJoy filtered drinking water, PEP drinking water,

Franklin Filtered drinking water, Regco drinking water, Clear taste

natural mineral water, Eye Adom filtered drinking water, Ever clear drinking

water. The

list also includes fruit drink companies; BIDASH non alcoholic

beverages, Victory fresh pineapple juice, Fruitco Foods processing Ltd,

Prime fruit processing and Prince processing company. Three

days later, on Monday, March 28, 2011, the Food and Drugs Boards (FDB)

again identified and blacklisted more sachet water producing companies

bringing the number of blacklisted companies to 48, and promising to

fish out more unwholesome water producers. Some of the

companies on the second list are: Evergreen Drinking Water, Virgin

Fresh, Yes, 101, Fresh Drop Filtered Drinking Water, Potential Filtered

Drinking Water, Bonjour Drinking Water, Flashy Cool, Acqua Chill and

Advance Fresh. Dr Mohammed Alfa, Head of the Animal

products and Biosafety Department of the FDB, in an interview he granted

a media house in Accra following the release of the lists said that the

Board will be ruthless in dealing with companies producing water under

unhygienic condition as well as those who have hired the services of

unqualified person to work for them. “This is just the

beginning,” Dr Alfa noted, and assured that his outfit will continue to

publish the names of blacklisted companies for public safety. Companies

duly registered and are considered to be producing wholesome products

would also be made public. This was a good news to all

vulnerable consumers; nevertheless, what is more newsworthy to me here

is that the FDB’s action came in the wake of a research report released

by the Ghana Chemical Society (GCS) which revealed that 85% of the

‘pure’ water produced in the country does not meet required safety

standards. The report, which ruffled lots of nerves with

the country already reeling under a cholera epidemic, awoke social

commentators to possible water borne health danger; and they implored

the GCS to put out the list of unhygienic pure water products to help

consumers make the right purchasing decisions. Hurriedly, before the GCS could

response to this request, FDB came out with the aforementioned two lists. It's

annoyingly funny how FDB officials are employing archaic public

relations tactics to insulate the Board from its glaring inefficiency;

and, I sincerely think both the FDB and GSB seriously need to explain

some things to both consumers and their employers. First

of all, since when did the FDB make the two lists they put out after GCS

revelations? Did the Board have such lists before the GCS’ revelations,

or not; and how long had they known of the operations of those illegal

sachet water producers? Did they notice that almost all,

if not all, of the ‘pure water’ products they blacklisted had Ghana

Standard Board’s accreditation marks on them? Did they care to find out

how they got those stamps; and, what is the relationship between the FDB

and the GSB in the discharge of their duplicating duties? How

many sachet water producers have the Ghana Standard Board authorized to

use their accreditation marks? How many illegal producers have they

prosecuted so far for using the GSB’s accreditation marks without

authorization? In other words, how did those FDB

blacklisted producers get the GSB’s accreditation marks if they do? If

they were not authorized to use it and they did, what action has the GSB

taken or is taking to sanitize the system? One could

genuinely see gross inefficiency on the part of the GSB and FDB in the

discharge of their duties, especially, with regards to the

indiscriminate production of sachet water in this country, which

continues to render consumers painfully vulnerable to possible water

borne health hazards. Moreover, their duplicating

functions and role rivalry continue to provide unscrupulous illegal

producers a wide entrance to the market. But, this isn’t bordering our

authorities enough because of the paucity of researches on how many

consumers die daily as a direct consequence of the inefficiency of these

two Boards. The Ghana Standards Board was established by a

decree of the Government of Ghana, the Standards Decree 1967, NLCD 199

with overall responsibility for standardization and the quality

assurance of goods and services for both the local market and for

export. This was superseded by NRCD 173 of 1973. The aims

of the Board are to: establish and promulgate standards with the object

of ensuring the high; quality of goods produced in Ghana, whether for

local consumption or for export; promote standardization in industry and

commerce; promote industrial efficiency and development; and, promote

standards in the field of public and industrial welfare, heath and

safety. However, in the appearance of the Biblical new

testament, the Food and Drugs Board (FDB) was also established by the

Food and Drugs Law 1992, PNDCL 305B. Before 1990, the control of drugs

and the practice of pharmacy profession were under the Pharmacy and

Drugs Act 64, 1961. In 1990, the Provisional National

Defense Council (PNDC) passed the Narcotics Drug Control, Enforcement

and Sanctions Law, PNDCL 236, which established the Narcotics Control

Board to deal with the rising incidence of drug abuse in the country and

the threatening dimensions that illicit drug dealing had taken

internationally. In 1992, the PNDC separated the control of drugs other than

narcotics from the practice of Pharmacy. The

Food and Drugs Law 1992, PNDCL 305B was then enacted to control the

manufacture, importation, exportation, distribution, use and

advertisement of food, drugs, cosmetics, chemical substances and medical

devices. And, the Pharmacy Act 489, 1994 was

subsequently passed in 1994 to establish the Pharmacy Council to

regulate the practice of the Pharmacy profession and the registration of

Pharmacists in Ghana. Although the Food and Drugs Law was

passed in 1992, it was not until August 26, 1997 that the Board was

inaugurated. Thus, today, Food and Drugs Board (FDB) is the national

regulatory body under the Ministry of Health with the responsibility of

implementing Food and Drugs Law of 1992, (PNDCL 305B). It

is important to note that the law establishing FDB captures ‘water’ in

its definition of food. According to the FDB’s operational procedures,

sachet water producers are obliged to satisfy about fifteen parameters

to acquire the Board’s market authorization. However,

members of the Board could give you 1001 tangible reasons why producers

could take their products to market after what they call preliminary

procedures which form the basic parameter. As a direct

result, a good number of products which have no FDB authorization

numbers are available to consumers. The question which arises here is:

how do you differentiate between those products on the market which have

gone through the preliminary procedures of the Board and those which

have not started the authorization process at all since they all don’t

have the Board’s authorization number but are on the market? More

problematic is the odd relationship between the GSB and the FDB in

relation to ‘pure water’ market authorization. Almost all the recent

FDB’s blacklisted products have GSB authorization marks on them

indicating that they are of good standard and could be patronize by

consumers. How did the producers get the GSB market authorization marks?

And, should the GSB give market authorization marks to products which

have not gone through the market authorization parameters of the FDB? It

is no secret that many of the sachet water products we see with the GSB

market authorization mark haven’t passed through the Board’s screening. About

a year ago, an officer of the GBS told me that the Board is aware of

the fact that a lot of packaged water which haven’t passed through the

Board’s authorization procedures have the Board’s mark on them. According

to the officer, the producers of the packaged water and the sachet

printers connived to get the Board’s accreditation marks on the sachets

to deceive consumers that the products are of good quality and have been

approved by the GSB. This officer, however, couldn’t tell how many of these

printers and producers have faced the law for their illegal acts. What

is more painful is that it’s very difficult to even get information on

which producers have authorization from both Boards to operate. The

lame excuse they often give you is that because the numbers keep

changing they can’t give you the names and products of authorized

producers and products. “And, even if we publish them in the newspapers,

how many Ghanaians could read,” FDB officer I talked to reasoned. Further,

just visit their ill managed virus infested websites and you would

understand what I’m talking about here. The last time I visited the FDB

website, I kept wondering if whoever worked on the list of authorized

producers and products was really paid to do it. One

couldn’t see features of updates, nothing shows which of the producers

and products have exhausted all the fifteen parameters and which

haven’t; nothing on those who need to renew their authorization status;

and, the same list of producers and products registered under Greater

Accra Region were, for instance, under Upper West or so Region too. Consumers

here are painfully too vulnerable. Meanwhile, people are being paid to

work to protect them. Or, are some of the officers working on these

Boards privately benefiting from the mess in which we find ourselves?

Certainly, this is a very fertile area for investigations. Whatever

the case, it’s time government seriously re-examined the role,

functions and performances of these two bodies and make the right

decisions regarding their operations to save us all.

Raymond

Ablorh

raydelove@yahoo.co.uk
Columnist: Ablorh, Raymond