Confusion rocks Aqua Pure ban

Post was last updated: March 19, 2015

Confusion as surrounded the ban of Aqua Pure Water from the market with some retailers claiming that they are getting conflicting information on the matter.

Spot checks we conducted in Blantyre and Mzuzu showed that big retailers are still stocking the commodity which was declared unfit for human consumption by the Competition and Fair Trading Commission after The Malawi Bureau of Standards conducted tests on the product.

Some of the customers who were seen buying the water expressed ignorance about the ban.

“I don’t know anything about the ban of aqua pure water. There must be a communication gap between the authorities and us the consumers and that is so dangerous,” said one of the customers The Daily Times spoke to who opted for anonymity.

In a press statement released last week, CFTC said following increased consumer complaints, it requested the Malawi Bureau of Standards (MBS) to conduct laboratory tests on the product to determine its conformity with prescribed consumer safety standards.

It said findings of the laboratory tests conducted by MBS showed that Aqua Pure bottled water failed to comply with minimum standard requirements on total plate count and coliform bacteria, making it unfit for human consumption.

But on March 13, producer of Aqua Pure Water Bawler Beverages Company Limited issued a press release clarifying that only two batches of their water dated BB Dec 15 and BB Feb 16 were affected due to damage to their Lilongwe purification equipment.

However, on March 17, the Malawi Bureau of Standards also issued a press release stating that water processed and packaged with BB June 2015, BB Dec 2015 and BB February 2016 dates does not meet the required standards. Competition and Fair Trading Competition asked BBCL to withdraw the water from the market but that has not happened.

Some shop owners that stock the product in Mzuzu said yesterday BBCL and MBS were giving them conflicting messages over the issue.

“When we heard about the ban last week we went to their [BBCL] offices to verify with them and they told us that it was not true. They said it was just a misunderstanding that one of their employees was feeding the MBS with wrong information to tarnish their image. But when I called them again today upon seeing the MBS press release they told me it is true and that they are waiting for the Lilongwe BBCL company to clarify on the issue,” said the shop owner.

He added: “Some customers come here and accuse us of selling contaminated water. Some just buy without checking the dates because they have not heard anything about the ban which is not good. What if they end up taking the bad water and get complications?”

Another shop owner said: “MBS should communicate properly to everyone and ensure all the substandard water should not even be found in the shops. Why is the company not withdrawing its water? Has the mandate of the MBS ended at just issuing press statement?”

But MBS Deputy Director Willy Muyira defended the bureau’s failure to withdraw the affected products from the market saying it is the responsibility of other players to play a part in sending the message across to the general public for them to stop buying the product.

“We are still monitoring the company’s processes and we need to verify what is being said on the ground but let me say that it is the responsibility of other players including the media, Consumer Association of Malawi and Competition and Fair Trading Commission (CFTC) to help us in making people aware of the situation. If this fails, we are going to explore other measures as stipulated in the MBS Act,” without detailing the measures.

In a follow up interview, CFTC Executive Director Wezi Malonda said the commission had not retracted its stand on the ban but indicated that investigations are still ongoing.

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