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Opinions of Friday, 22 July 2011

Columnist: Ablorh, Raymond

GSB and FDB’s duplicating inefficiency

Raymond Ablorh

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.