Editor's Comment

Let’s safeguard Zambians’ health

SUSPICIONS that the imported Mazoe drink, which has flooded the market, is harmful are perturbing and therefore call for urgent measures to safeguard the lives of Zambians.Ministry of Health Permanent Secretary for Health Services Jabbin Mulwanda on Tuesday issued a statement stating that his ministry had received an urgent notification from the Ministry of Commerce, Trade and Industry to investigate imported Mazoe drink to ascertain if it is safe for human consumption.
According to Dr Mulwanda, Government suspects that the imported Mazoe drink is not fit for human consumption, and does not meet the food safety national standards.
He said to ascertain compliance to standards as stipulated in the Food and Drugs Act, environmental health officers will undertake random sampling and testing of all Mazoe drinks in the country.
While it is commendable that Government has quickly moved in to institute investigations into the suspected poisonous drink, there is need to seal all loopholes through which doubtful products are getting onto the Zambian market.
It is said prevention is better than cure.
In an event that these suspicions are proved true, then damage would have already been done to the lives of those who have already consumed the drink.
Besides the Mazoe drink, Zambia has in recent years experienced an influx of imported foods on the market.
Added to that, there has also been an increase in the manufacture and supply of fake products.
Unscrupulous people have turned backyards into factories, where they produce all kinds of foods using underhand methods thereby supplying the market with fake and unsafe products which pose a danger to human health.
Not too long ago, scams were exposed involving the production of soft drinks and packaging of water and sugar.
All these point to the need to seal evident loopholes in safeguarding the public against health hazards and fraud in the sale and use of food in accordance with the Food and Drugs Act.
Zambia Compulsory Standards Agency (ZCSA) public relations officer Lee Haamunji observed that the Mazoe drink under contention enters the country in small consignments and are brought in by small-scale entrepreneurs and cross-border traders.
This certainly points to the need to tighten import regulations. Regardless of the quantities involved, Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA), in partnership with other relevant authorities, should ensure that only products certified safe for human consumption are allowed into the country.
There is also a high possibility that most of these drinks are smuggled into the country.
While it is commendable that ZRA is working tirelessly to curb smuggling, there is still a lot of work to be done in this area.
Actually smuggling is usually the conduit through which fake and unsafe products are brought into the country.
As a country which has put a premium on citizens’ health, it cannot be business as usual when innocent lives are at risk due to unsafe foods on the market.
Whether these foods are imported or produced locally in backyards, there is need for relevant authorities such as Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, ZCSA and government departments to find ways of keeping such foodstuffs out of the market given the danger they pose to the health of Zambians.
Unsafe products tend to increase the disease burden thereby putting a strain on healthcare facilities and national resources.
It is also a known fact that unhealthy citizens are unproductive and they deprive the country of development.
It is hoped that investigations into the suspected harmful Mazoe drink will be expedited and extended to many other suspicious products on the market.
In the meantime, Government should issue a temporary ban on Mazoe as it carries out investigations to safeguard the public in an event that the suspicions turn out factual.

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