Standards agency institutes probe into bottled water scandal

THE Zambia Compulsory Standards Agency has instituted an independent investigation over the safety of bottled water allegedly being packed in 20-litre containers belonging to Fairy Bottling by a named Chinese company in Lusaka.

An investigation had revealed how a Chinese-owned company called Simuliya had been manufacturing counterfeit mineral water for various bottling companies, among them Aquasavana and Aquarite.

According to News Diggers! police officers from Kanyama raided the bottling plant in the industrial area where Chinese Liu Guifen, Liu Heling and another identified as Jiang have been operating.

After police officers from the Intellectual Property Unity (IPU), D/Inspector Mwale and D/Const Banda raided the location on April 6, Liu attempted to stop the investigators from filming his premises where water was being pumped from a nearby pit and filled into various water bottles through a running tap.

Thousands of water bottles bearing several brands were found at the warehouse with Liu’s family and a group of Zambian employees working round the clock to fill the bottles and load them onto trucks for distribution to different clients around Lusaka.

But in a press statement today, Zambia Compulsory Standards Agency (ZCSA) public relations officer Lee Haamunji stated that his organisation was carrying out “an independent investigation over the safety of bottled water allegedly being packed in 20 litre containers belonging to Fairy Bottling by a named company in Lusaka.”

The signing of the compulsory standards Act No. three of 2017 saw the birth of the Zambia Compulsory Standards Agency whose main mandate is to enforce standards set by the Zambia Bureau of Standards (ZABS).

As of January 1, 2018, ZABS was split into two –ZCSA and ZABS.

“It is reported that the containers were labelled Aquasavana, a brand owned by Fairy Bottling and used in their bottled water products. Staff of ZCSA who went to the place where the packing of the water was allegedly taking place found that police who had been called in by Fairy Bottling had seized a total of 82 filled 20-litre containers and 59 empty 20 litre containers for further investigations. Of the filled bottles, nine had Aquasavana labels on them, 55 had no labels and 18 had Ice Age labels. The empty containers included nine labelled Aquasavana, 18 labelled Ice Age and 55 with no label,” Haamunji stated.

“The named company produces bottled water with brand name Ice Age. The company is duly registered with the Zambia Compulsory Standards Agency and has been issued with a permit to supply bottled water on the market.”

He added that bottled water was one of the products regulated under compulsory standards and that because of that fact, the ZCSA obtained samples from the named bottling plant for testing to ascertain whether the product it was manufacturing was safe for human consumption.

“The samples obtained by the Agency staff did not include the products packaged in 20 litre containers belonging to Aquasavana that were seized by police as these were confiscated for further investigation by police themselves,” stated Haamunji.

“The Agency would like to state that the alleged use of containers belonging to Aquasavana by the named company is under investigation by the police as reported by Fairy Bottling. The Agency is taking steps to ensure that the product in the confiscated bottles is safe for human consumption and that permit conditions were being adhered to by the company, in accordance with its mandate under the compulsory standards Act, No. 3 of 2017. Furthermore, the Agency would like to urge members of the public to be vigilant and report products whose safety may be compromised.”

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