Substandard products worth over Rwf100 million seized from market

On 20 August 2023 at 08:00

Joint operations by law enforcement agencies and other institutions in quality and value chain, have impounded substandard, counterfeit and expired products worth over Frw100 million (approximately USD84,850).

The five-day operation code named USALAMA IX, started on August 14. It is a simultaneous regional operation conducted periodically since 2013, in all the Eastern Africa Police Cooperation Organization (EAPCCO) member states in partnership with the international Police body, INTERPOL, targeting counterfeit or substandard foods and beverages, and other products, human and drug trafficking, smuggling and other crimes.

The seized substandard products, according to the operations report released on Saturday, August 19, by Rwanda National Police (RNP) and Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB) and other institutions, include foodstuff such as meat, maize flour and honey worth over Frw36.2 million; illicit brews and beverages valued at over Frw13.2 million; and expired pharmaceuticals with an estimated value of over Frw1.4 million.

Others include illegally extracted and possessed minerals with an estimated value of over Frw18,5 million; outlawed polythene bags worth over Frw13.8 million; construction materials such as paint and electric cables valued at Frw7.5 million; electronic equipment including mobile phones worth over Frw1.8 million; as well as assorted liquor and beer brands, prohibited cosmetics, auto engine oil and other petroleum items, hair bleaching products, clothes, shoes, kanyanga (illicit gin) and narcotics especially cannabis.

At least 67 people were also arrested during the operations, including 29 Rwandans and 38 foreigners; manufacturers, companies and individuals were also handed fines totaling to over Frw43.7 million for operating with either no or expired license, poor packaging, substandard products, and operating in unhygienic places.

The RNP spokesperson, Commissioner of Police CP John Bosco Kabera, while addressing journalists at RIB headquarters in Kimihurura, warned of continuous operations.

"Selling fake or expired pharmaceuticals, foods, beverages or substandard construction material is being self-serving at the expense of people’s lives, which is also an act of causing insecurity," said CP Kabera.

He added: "Why should someone invest in a business to poison people and to incur losses? When you are found in such unlawful and harmful practices, you will be arrested, face a prison sentence, fined and your shop, company or plant closed."

Some seven production plants and three pharmacies were fined and closed for either operating illegally or breaching quality standards.

RIB spokesperson, Thierry Murangira said that some traders were selling expired products such as water and alcoholic beverages after covering expiry dates with new seals.

Some impounded products like Leffe beer, for example, expired in December 2022, but the manufacture date seals were counterfeited and given a new expiry date of up to December 2023.

There are those who were also packaging and selling poor quality auto engine oil, in Total Energies jerrycans and boxes.

"The government encourages people and particularly the youth to be innovative and to create jobs, but that should not compromise standards and quality or influence illegal operations," Murangira said.

According to Dr. Eric Nyirimigabo, the Head of Food and Drugs Inspection and Safety Monitoring Department at Rwanda Food and Drug Authority (FDA), some plants were found operating without license, others had been closed due to standards but they continued operating; there are those that were counterfeiting production dates; as well as those operating in unhygienic areas or in places contrary to the awarded license.

Beatrice Uwumukiza, the Director General of Rwanda Inspectorate, Competition and Consumer Protection Authority (RICA), urged traders and consumers to always check production dates thoroughly, to ask for receipts for easy tracing of unlawful practices in business.

She also reminded sellers to always display commodity prices as provided by law.