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Opinions of Saturday, 8 December 2007

Columnist: Adu-Gyamfi, Kwaku

The Made-In-China And

The Made-In-China And Local Defective Products Are Killing Us Softly.

Whose responsibility is it to protect Ghanaians from counterfeit drugs, chemical- saturated defective goods and contaminated foods?

The made- in -China products are not the only ones which are making the Ghanaian consumers sick, but some products from our neighbors and those produced locally are no exceptions. Some of our chop -bars, restaurants, slaughter houses and poultry farms are also contributing to the problem.

Some of these contaminated -toxic toothpastes, lead-loaded toys, deadly-drugs, tainted foods, the so-called, bottled “pure-water” and all other defective consumer products which are coming from China, our neighbors and our own indigenous factories are very injurious to our health. The issue is whose responsibility is it to ensure that importers and producers of these products observed safety standards?

Are we too busy arresting cocaine and other hard drugs dealers, so much so that we have forgotten the harm caused by these importers and producers to unsuspecting consumers?

Consumer products safety should become a national security concern because no country will allow cocaine and other high octane drugs to be distributed with impunity on its streets and neighborhoods. It is appropriate that our security agencies have stepped up effort to crack down on these crooks and their foreign elements who deal in this illicit trade. Unfortunately however, we have let thousands of defective drugs, dangerous chemical and unwholesome consumables to be paraded on the shelves of our markets. At times, the impression is created as if Ghana has no institutions and laws to ensure consumer safety.

Recently, it was reported in the United States that some sea foods from China had residues of chemical which could cause cancer. But for the vigilance of the American Food and Drugs Agency (FDA), the unsuspecting consumer would have bought this deadly cancer disease. What would have been the case if these products were routed to Ghana? It’s even hard to disprove that some of that Chinese harmful food products didn’t get into the Ghanaians’ kitchens.

To shape and combat the system that allows defective , contaminated and toxic products to slip into our houses and mouths, I have several proposals and I know some of you will rate them as radical, but believe me, they’re nothing compare to China’s. In China, people who produce or sell defective products in the market are summarily executed by the state. They are never offered the opportunity to explain themselves.

For one thing, I have strong conviction that neither the Ghana Standard Board nor Ghana Food and Drug Board is capable to handle such a huge task of protecting the Ghanaian from this menace. I foresee the need to create a new Consumer Safety Agency (CSA)—which should be empowered by strong legislation to deal with all the elements of this industry. The CSA should be law enforcement- oriented and not the type like the Ghana Standard Board or Food and Drug Board which is civilian- oriented and lacks the ability to handle security issues.

MY SOLUTIONS: 1) Laws should be enacted to regulate consumer products such as foods, drugs and tools.

2) We need uncorrupted, dedicated inspectors to police the local factories, borders, harbors, market places, restaurants, poultry farms and slaughter houses . 3) We need an Independent and a reliable Laboratory facility to test and certify products on the market.

4) Increase maximum penalties for safety violators.

5) Protect industrial and market whistle –blowers.

6) Prosecute executives of companies who intentionally violate the laws on consumer safety.

7) Over- haul the food and drug regulations and weeds out fraudulent companies and arrest corrupt officials and businessmen/women.

8) Give a better salary to the inspectors.

9) Persecute any government official who failed to perform his or her duty and let a defective good get into the market.

10) There should be an Independent Consumer Group Advocate, which will scrutinize products on the market and educate the public about safety and also report its findings in the media and on the web.

11) There should be under-cover agents who will police the standard Board and other government agencies which are responsible for our imports.

12) If possible, there should be agents stationed in foreign countries like China to check containers before they’re shipped into the country.

13) Foreign companies which intentionally ship defective products or chemical- saturated foods into Ghana will pay a heavy fine and will be banned from exporting goods to Ghana.

14) Special attention should be paid to our local producers and sellers to weed out the bad ones.

15) The government should regulate the use of toxic pesticide which can drain into our water system.

HOW TO FINANCE THIS PLAN:

1) The fines from the violators will be used to buy machines to test products and pay the inspectors. 2) Failure to be certified by the Consumer Safety Agency will attract penalties (fines) 3) Two -percent consumer tax will be collected to finance the new agency. 4) A national harbor and border crossing fees will be instituted and collected to finance this plan.

There is no way to guarantee the safety of consumer products or goods from fraudulent greedy producers and manufactures, because our corrupt society and ineffective Customs officers and safety inspectors will make the daunting task impossible. However, doing nothing will be like signing our own death certificates because our medical system is not capable to handle the rise in many chronic health conditions like: Cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, insomnia and depression, which are associated with the consumption of products which could have been avoided.

A country like ours which imports everything, including toothpicks and toilet rolls, needs more consumer protection because the unsuspecting Ghanaian consumers are very venerable now than ever.

Kwaku Adu-Gyamfi NJ, USA

* The writer is a social commentator and a founder of Adu-Gyamfi Youth Empowerment, Educational and Apprenticeship Foundation for the youth of Asuom, in the Kwaebirbrim district, E/R
Email: Asuomgag@hotmail.com