Columnists Features

Characteristics of good product labelling

I HAVE been calling upon consumers and other stakeholders to shun substandard products and make a conscious decision to buy only quality products.
I have repeatedly advised that consumers in Zambia should join the quality battle by becoming quality conscious. A lot of people have wondered as to how come we still have substandard products on the market.
The reasons are many, one of them being the fact that some of these products are smuggled into the country, therefore evading the normal border clearance procedures where the Zambia Bureau of Standards (ZABS) and other state agencies have presence. The other reason is that there is a market for those products because consumers still choose to buy even when they know that those products are compromised.
One message that we have repeatedly sent out is that consumers should take a few minutes of their time to read product details and look out for both the manufacturing date, the expiry date and the presence of a batch number.
Be concerned also about the handling and storage of these products, because all such information can help you to make an informed decision about the quality of products that you are buying. It is against that background that I want to talk about product labelling, because it is in fact a form of consumer protection.
Product labelling is simply the display of information about a product on its container, packaging or the product itself. Every day, products are multiplying in the market place and consumers are offered a variety of products to choose from and use.
Consumers need information on products such as the name, price, contents of the product, and directions for use, storage and warnings of dangers, if any. Product labelling is therefore information given to consumers on the product and its use. The importance of product labelling, therefore, cannot be overemphasised.
• inform consumers of the product, its name, content, price and other relevant information;
• help them make choices on the product to purchase;
• guide them on how to use such products, how to store it and what dangers to avoid.
But what are some of the key characteristics of good product labelling?
Good labelling must cover five important  areas, namely;
• Provide basic information: The product label must state the brand name, the price, the standard certification or expiry date for food products and the name and address of the manufacturer.
• Details of the content or ingredients: A good product label should give information on the contents, and for food items, the ingredients used. The information must include the weight and measurements as well.
• Instruction for use: Another characteristic of a good label is one that contains clear and precise instructions on the use of the product. In addition to product labelling, more product information is needed such as on electrical equipment, computers, machinery, etc. In the case of food items, tonics and medicines, the amount and dosage must be clearly stated. The instruction should include instructions for storage and maintenance.
• Warning and contra indications: A good label should also contain warnings of possible dangers and hazards. In the case of food and medicines, the label should provide contra indications and possible side effects.
• Visible and easy to read: Labels are for consumers. A good label is one that is visible and easy to read not just coding and signs for the use of the retailers and manufacturers.
We promise you that as a Bureau we will continue our surveillances to ensure that only quality and safe products are on the market.
The author is Head – Marketing and Public Relations
Contact the Director
Zambia Bureau of Standards
Lechwe House, Freedom Way
P O Box 50259, Lusaka
Tel: 260-211-231385,

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