By Bright Chikele:
The Zambia Weights and Measures Agency (ZWMA) conducted inspections in the following areas, Lusaka, Ndola, Kitwe, Luanshya, Chipata and Choma to ascertain compliance to net content with regards to packaging of mealie meal. These inspections were carried out between May and July 2016 and involved the inspection of ten (10) milling companies.
Out of the ten Milling Companies inspected seven (7) milling companies in Lusaka, Ndola, Luanshya, and Choma were found guilty of the offence of packaging and offering for sale underweight mealie meal, contrary to the provisions of the Weights and Measures (Amendment) Act number 12, of 2003 and the Weights and Measures Regulations. Three (3) of the companies inspected were found to be compliant with the Law.
The Agency inspected a total number of 17,850 bags of mealie meal of which 17,450 bags were non- compliant as they all failed the average batch test.
The non-compliant companies were National Milling Company in Lusaka, APG Milling in Lusaka, Continental Milling in Lusaka, Mushe Milling in Lusaka, Jambo Milling in Ndola, Antelope Milling in Luanshya and Choma Milling in Choma whilst the three compliant companies were Cargil Milling in Chipata, H.M. Milling in Kitwe and Olympic Milling in Ndola. At these compliant companies, a total number of 400 bags of mealie meal were tested to determine their compliance to the stipulations contained in the Regulations. All the 400 bags passed this test.
At the National Milling Company in Lusaka, a batch of over 8500 bags of 25kg roller meal and breakfast mealie meal and 10kg bags of roller meal were tested to determine their accuracy. The test of accuracy which involved weighing individual bags of mealie meal on a ZWMA verified scale indicated that the samples failed the test as most bags were less than 25kg or 10kg. Similarly, at the APG milling plant in Lusaka, a batch of 1700 bags of 10kg roller meal, 25kg roller and breakfast mealie meal failed the test of accuracy as the average net weight of the 10kg bags and 25kg bags was found to be 9.4 kg and 24.4kg respectively. Some bags of 25kg were found to be as low as 21kg when weighed. This is unacceptable and punishable by Law. Both National Milling Company and APG Milling have been charged and fined K 60,000 and K 71,000 respectively, for the offence of offering for sale, bags of 25kg and 10kg mealie meal which were short of the weight stated on the package contrary to Section 32 (1) (b) of the Weights and Measures (Amendment) Act no. 12 of 2003.
The tolerable deficiency (or the allowable deficiency) for a 25kg pre-packaged commodity is 250g and 150g for a 10kg prepackaged commodity. This means that what is acceptable by Law for any 25kg commodity offered for sale, is that it should not weigh less than 24.75kg, while a 10kg should not weigh less than 9.85kg.
The Zambia Weights and Measures Agency has also warned and cautioned five (5) other milling companies namely Choma Milling in Choma, Antelope milling in Luanshya, Jambo milling in Ndola, Continental and Mushe milling in Lusaka. The said milling companies were directed to be consistent in their packaging by ensuring that once the average weight of a particular batch of their product was determined, this weight had to be the quantity stated on the package at all times, or slightly more.
Furthermore, Continental Milling was ordered to stick to correct quantity labelling on its bags of mealie meal as provided for by Law. It is an offence for instance, to label on a pre- packaged commodity “25kg when packed” as opposed to the requirement of “25kg net”. The wording “when packed” suggests that the manufacturer is not responsible for the weight that may be lost due to external factors such as loss of weight due to loss of moisture. The Law however demands that the quantity stated on the package should be the net quantity.
An immediate corrective measure that the Agency took was to quarantine the sale of the underweight bags of mealie meal. The companies were also ordered to re-pack all the underweight bags of mealie meal to meet the quantity as declared on the packaging. ZWMA barred the sale and confined the non-complaint products to protect consumers from being sold under weight mealie meal. In the medium to long term, ZWMA shall engage the milling companies to offer them training in related legal metrology requirements.
As an enforcement agency, ZWMA shall not relent in its role in protecting consumers and its role in regulating measurements thus fostering fair trade practices in the country.
Diana Ngula (Ms.)
Public Relations Officer
Zambia Weights and Measures Agency