30pc consumer goods in tuckshops underweight — report

26 May, 2024 - 00:05 0 Views
30pc consumer goods in tuckshops underweight — report

The Sunday Mail

Standrick Chagadama

ABOUT 30 percent of basic foodstuffs such as bread, mealie-meal and sugar being sold in informal retail shops are underweight, an investigation by the Consumer Protection Commission (CPC) has established.

The probe, which covered shops in over five provinces, found that these products were labelled with the correct weight, but contained far less than advertised.

It was also discovered that most beverages being sold through the same channel had expired.

Soft drinks alarmingly accounted for roughly 60 percent of all the expired goods.

The investigation identified Mbare as a key source of underweight products.

Cartels in the suburb are reportedly buying from manufacturers, then repackaging with less content, before selling to unsuspecting consumers to maximise profits.

In an interview with The Sunday Mail, CPC chairperson Dr Mthokozisi Nkosi said the consumer watchdog was concerned by such practices.

“In response to the outcry by members of the public and our own inspectors, the Consumer Protection Commission embarked on an accelerated nationwide blitz, working with Trade Measures, a department in the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, targeting retailers,” he said.

“The exercise covered Manicaland, Masvingo, Bulawayo and Harare, among other provinces.”

The blitz, he said, was undertaken through sporadic and random checks on basic commodities such as mealie meal, salt, rice and sugar.

“It is estimated that such goods account for under 30 percent of the total being sold. A standard loaf of bread is supposed to be 350 grammes or 700 grammes, and some shops were found selling bread not conforming to the statutory mass and were accordingly prosecuted,” added Dr Nkosi.

“Sugar, in particular the one written Star Sugar, was found to be short in mass, with a 2kg packet weighing 1,6kg.

“The selling of underweight goods and measures is shameful, unethical and illegal.

“Concerning expired products, the major ones found were beverages and some food items, with beverages accounting for over 60 percent.”

This, he said, was exposing consumers to health risks.

In total, 1 903 retailers have since been prosecuted this year for violating consumer protection regulations, with 647 cases relating to quality offences.

“Investigations have indicated that major culprits selling underweight and expired products are the small to medium enterprises, with big supermarket cases being marginal.

“The bulk of the underweight products are not coming from established manufacturers, but information points to the fact that these are unscrupulous people buying products from manufacturers in the right quantities, repackaging them, mostly in some parts of Mbare, and selling to unsuspecting consumers.”

Dr Nkosi said those found on the wrong side of the law were charged with contravening Section 23 of the Trade Measures Act.

“Those who were caught were prosecuted using Section 23 of the Trade Measures Act, more particularly . . . which provides for the protection of consumers and the public.

“Offenders found guilty are liable to a fine not exceeding Level Six or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding one year, or to both such fine and such imprisonment.

“On expired products, the penalty provision is provided for in Section 13 (4), where any business found guilty of the offence of selling expired products is liable to a fine not exceeding Level 14 or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding two years, or to both such fine and such imprisonment.”

He said businesses selling products that were not properly labelled were also prosecuted.

“The Trade Measures department also carries out inspections to check whether measuring instruments used in trade have been certified by the Trade Measures Inspectorate as correct and not tampered with or manipulated,” he said.

“Examples are butcheries and fuel stations, among other traders.

“Trade Measures also checks whether products being offered for sale are not short of the quantity required, declared or deceptively/misleadingly packaged to give the impression that the product is more than what is contained.”

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