“It has therefore become clear that the proposed National Quality Policy and Act has to specifically address these glaring gaps and inadequacies in the system.
Various ministries, including the Agriculture and the Industry and Commerce portfolios oversee the quality of both locally produced and imported products.
Acting Industry and Commerce permanent secretary Norman Chakanetsa said the ministry was concerned about the quality of products coming into the country. He said some unscrupulous business people were taking advantage of the shortage of food products over the years to bring in poor quality products.
“We are working on introducing compulsory standards for certain specified products,” Chakanetsa said.
“We do not have testing laboratories for quality control and we currently rely on voluntary testing by such institutions as SAZ, private laboratories and consumer councils.
“So, what we currently have are voluntary standards which are difficult to enforce and that is the reason why we want to introduce compulsory standards.”
He said basic commodities and pharmaceuticals will be prioritised under the compulsory standards schedule. When the list of specified products has been formulated, Chakanetsa said government would use its analysts and contract SAZ, consumer organisations and private laboratories to monitor standards.
There would also be a surveillance mechanism involving the testing of products on the shelves. Both government and independent organisations currently do not test products found on the shelves.
While SAZ for example only tests products brought to it by clients intending to import, the government sends specialists to assess products intended for export.
Chakanetsa however said although worrying, the South African chicken imports were not a serious issue as the reworked birds do not pose a health hazard.
He said the chickens were also cheaper and government could not stop their importation as they covered gaps left by the local industry.
He added that government also currently relied on the services of exporting countries’ standards frameworks which are stronger than those in Zimbabwe.
“We have been working with such organisations like the South African Bureau of Standards and the South African National Accreditation System but we now want to be proactive so that we double check,” he said.
“The framework we are developing will also apply to our exports; they too have to meet set standards. We are also working on a Consumer Protection Act which will harmonise the various Acts currently being applied to achieve a more co-ordinated approach. An overarching regulatory authority too will help improve the situation,” he said.