By PHOEBE MASONGOLE
MBALE, Uganda|SHIFTMEDIA| A massive crackdown on illegal waragi distillers in Mbale city has left 6,000 liters of the crude seized.
The standards watchdog, Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) conducted the crackdown around Musoto cell in Industroa; City Division in Mbale City this week.
The crackdown was quantify the quality of products produced and its safety to the consumers.
Musoto is one of slum areas where distilling crude waragi is the main activity and business for livelihood of many residents.
UNBS Spokesperson Victoria Namutebi said they seized about 6000 liters of alcohol that are going be taken to the laboratory for analysis to ascertain its content and quality.
“We found distillers were very unhygienic, the production process, equipment and the working environment was to unhygienic ” she said.
Namutebe noted that there was no evidence of production, the final product was not labeled, the equipment used were not food like materials hence being non compatible to their expectations”
“So with such finding we cannot guarantee products that are being consumed by the public yet our mandate as UNBS is to ensure whatever that is consumed by every Ugandan is not harmful to their health and to the environment,” noted Namutebi.
She said they had asked the distilers to report to their offices for a “chat”.
Namutebi said the chat will involved sensitizing the “illegal” distilers on the need to formalize their trade by getting UNBS certification and quality marks (Q Mark)
Agaston kirondo, the head of surveillance Mbale regional office said they have also impounded around 40 cartons of unlabeled alcoholic products and the operation is still ongoing.
He noted that the products were impounded because they didn’t have expiry labels on them.
He asked consumers and dealers to always purchase products that meet the quality standards.
Alex Bbosa, the head of surveillance said they are carrying out this operation to verify the safety of products on market,
“We are going to test these products to ascertain if they meet our good manufacturing practices and standards,” he said
He said the illegal brewing of the crude waragi wouldnot be tolerated anymore in Musoto.
Musa Kasanga, area councilor of Musoto said there is need for much sensitization to the community before such operations are carried out.
“The issue of sensitization is weakness that most people need to be reminded, our people did not know anything,” he said.
He added; “the government should learn how to handle its people, this is paralyzing peoples’ business yet it’s their source of livelihood and survival.”
Miriam Madoi, a female councilor and the industrial city division mayor said residents in Musoto have been distilling waragi for decades as a source of their livelihood.
“UNBS is not supposed to impound products before knowing its quality,” she said.
Juliet Akello, one of the victims whose 10 jerry cans of waragi was confiscated said she will no longer be able to repay her loan.
” I processed a loan to sustain this business but now I won’t be able because this was my only business I was sticking to as form of income, “she said
“I have been taking care of my family through this business, how will I be able to provide for them what to eat.”
Grace Adokorach, another victim said they are doing this to earn a living
“Waragi making is very dangerous but it’s because they we want to survive that’s why we take risks.”
Kenneth Onene, a distiller said the UNBS should aim at helping them to improve on quality to meet their standards
“Taking away what we have is not fair and solution but helping us produce what they want is the solution because this is where we make end meets,” he said.
Irene Okoth, a wholesaler at Mbale central market said UNBS should trace the companies faking goods instead of shoppers.