No need to panic, says BOBS

Botswana Bureau of Standards’ spokesperson, Ogomoditse Letsholo, tells Staff Writer, MBONGENI MGUNI that the parastatal is on top of things

Mmegi:  Please explain how the quality or standards of consumed food is regulated in Botswana?

Letsholo: There are several food regulators in Botswana and Botswana Bureau of Standards (BOBS) is one of them. Not all food products are regulated by BOBS, but for those that are regulated by BOBS, there is a process to be followed in order to place the products (food) into the market.

The process for imports differs a little with local products. When importing food products such as pulses, pasteurized milk and peanut butter etc an application has to be made at BOBS in order to bring the food into the country. The items being brought in have to be inspected and tested, either in the country of origin or locally. Where the food has been tested at the country of origin, the test report confirming compliance to Botswana Standards has to be attached to the application and a certificate (Note of Recognition) will be given to the importer hence allowing them to import the food product.

When the food products have not been tested at the country of origin, BOBS will offer a Conditional Release Certificate that will allow the importer to bring in the food with the condition that when the product arrives it will be sampled and taken to the lab for analysis. If the results show compliance to the standard then the food product is released into the market and if they fail a health parameter that cannot be corrected, they are destroyed at the importers cost.

For locally produced food items, manufacturers are exposed to scheduled inspections and samples are taken for laboratory testing periodically. When the test indicates a failure to meet health related requirements an organisation is required to make a corrective action, which at times may mean terminating production for some time while the cause of the problem will be dealt with.

Mmegi: How frequently does BOBS conduct compliance audits within manufacturers, importers or distributors to ensure adherence to the standards?

Letsholo: For BOBS regulated food products, there are scheduled inspections to sample imported and locally produced food products at distributors and local manufactures. There are also scheduled Market Surveillance at varying frequencies depending on a number of factors like the type of food and compliance history.

Mmegi: Lately we have noted the influx of Indian spices and other products in retail supermarkets. How is the Bureau ensuring that these food items do not have immediate or delayed adverse health effects?

Letsholo: BOBS has a list of products it regulates and Indian spices do not form part of this list.

Mmegi: How responsive is the Bureau to increasing complexity of food items, particularly those being imported into the country?

Letsholo: Botswana Bureau of Standards has a standards developing department which facilitates development of Botswana Standards with assistance of various experts from various fields (sectors). As such Botswana Standards are dependent on stakeholder expertise. The complexity of the evolving food products is therefore all addressed by stakeholder expertise. Standards are reviewed from time to time bearing in mind the changes and developments in the concerned sectors.

Editor's Comment
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