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Standards Agency, LCC probe Blue Band margarine

THE Zambia Compulsory Standards Agency and Lusaka City Council have instituted investigations into the Blue Band margarine that is allegedly not melting under any conditions.

The investigations follow a video clip that went viral showing Blue Band margarine failing to melt in boiling water.

The video, produced by a woman claiming to be a concerned Lusaka resident, shows two scoops of Blue Band margarine being dipped into boiling water and not melting.

“This is Blue Band, I bought it from Pick n Pay at Woodlands Shopping Mall. I think this Blue Band is not safe for human consumption. Let me show you what I just discovered…the Blue Band doesn’t melt in [hot] water. What are we feeding on? What happens when it goes in the stomach? This is not safe…the Blue band is not melting in hot boiling water and it has to go in the stomach…is this safe?” wondered the woman.

Unilever Zambia on Wednesday issued a statement assuring consumers of safety of its products including Blue Banda bread spread.

It reassured consumers and customers that Blue Band products were safe to consume as they meet all local and global health guidelines and manufacturing standards.

“There are two variants of Blue Band: Blue Band Spread for bread and Blue Band Original. Blue Brand spread for bread has been made with specific ingredients so consumers in high temperature climates can enjoy it. These ingredients include emulsifiers, which make the product very stable and prevent it from melting at high temperatures,” it stated.

“Emulsifiers are found in nature and are made from soybeans, sunflower and castor oil. They are commonly used in the manufacturing of food and confectionary. In Blue Band spread for bread, they are used to bind together the fat, water and other ingredients to prevent the spread from melting, which is why the Blue Band spread for bread product did not melt in the video. If Blue Band Original had been used in the same demonstration, it would have melted.”

It stated that the company was working with customers and relevant authorities to reassure that Blue Brand products meet all quality and safety standards and are safe for consumers to enjoy.

But in a statement yesterday, Zambia Compulsory Standards Agency public relations officer Lee Haamunji stated that the agency wants to ascertain the objectiveness of the matter.
“As at 11th July 2018, ZCSA Inspectors visited Pick N Pay Woodlands in Lusaka, where the product is purported to have been bought. The product was inspected and samples from different batches have been submitted for laboratory analysis,” Haamunji stated.

“The impending results will direct ZCSA follow up action which will be made public as soon as possible. Furthermore, ZCSA would like to appeal to the claimant in the video to come forth and lodge in a formal complaint to the regulator. We applaud the vigilance exhibited by the claimant and we urge other consumers to be alert and report any product that they suspect to be unsafe to their health. The battle for quality needs concerted efforts from all stakeholders including consumers and regulators.”
Haamunji stated that the safety and quality of products should never be compromised.

He urged all manufacturers in Zambia to ensure that their products meet the required parameters of the various standards.
“ZCSA will continue carrying out market surveillances and inspections of products to ensure that the products, especially those which fall within the umbrella of compulsory standards, are safe for consumption and do not pose any health risk to consumers,” stated Haamunji.

And Lusaka City Council public relations manager George Sichimba stated that although no resident had lodged a formal complaint with the council, the decision to carry out investigations had been made to ascertain the claims.

“A team of Council Public Health Inspectors has been assembled to handle the matter and samples of Blue Band margarine are being collected from selected outlets for tests at the Food and Drugs Laboratory at UTH,” he stated. “LCC wishes to remind the general public that issues of food safety are supposed to be reported to council as quickly as possible so that quick action could be taken by relevant authorities. Members of the public are also advised to be keeping receipts of all food items bought from any food outlet to be used as proof in an event that the food bought is not in good taste. Opting to post matters of such nature on social media has the potential of jeopardising investigations.”

He stated that the local authority is appealing to anyone who may have bought such margarine to come forward and help in investigations.

Sichimba said results of the laboratory tests would be communicated to the public as soon as they are ready.

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