The Mozambican company Yaafico Industrial, which makes the Frozy brand of soft drinks, has rejected claims by the Malawian Bureau of Standards (MBS) that the drinks do not meet the standards laid down by the Malawian authorities.
It has also accused MBS for not consulting the company before the ban.
The MBS banned the import of Frozy drinks because they contain high levels of citric acid and of the food preservative sodium benzoate.
MBS’s Chief Executive, Davlin Chokazinga, said the bureau had “objectively established that Frozy Soft Drinks are failing to conform with requirements of relevant Malawi Standards, MS 18-Carbonated soft drinks specification and MS 19-Labeling standard for prepackaged foods.”
But Yaafico Industrial said the drinks are certified by, and frequently analyzed by, the National Food and Water Hygiene Laboratory (LNHAA) of the Mozambican Health Ministry.
The company claimed that in the last analysis, in August, and in all previous ones, the levels of acidity detected were in conformity with the standards demanded by the LNHAA, and throughout the southern African region.
The company could show documents indicating that it has a certificate of quality issued by the Ministry of Industry and Trade and collaborates regularly with the National Inspectorate of Economic Activities (INAE).
Yaafico protested that it had never been asked by the Malawian authorities about the quality of its products.
It accused the MBS of bad faith, since it should have notified the Mozambican authorities about the matter, under the trade protocol of SADC (Southern African Development Community).
Yaafico says Frozy drinks are popular among Malawian consumers. It intends to appeal against the MBS decision, in order to “restore the truth” about its products.
Some business owners in Malawi alsi blasted MBS over its decision to impose a ban on the importation and sell of Frozy, saying the bureau is acting as a stooge for Southern Bottlers (SOBO).
Speaking in random interviews, one shop owner at Wenera Bus Depot, Sam Kaunda told Malawi News Agency (MANA) that they would adhere to the ban but argued that if Frozy had un-recommended amounts of citric acid and sodium benzoates, the drink could have been banned right away in Mozambique.
“Should we say that in Mozambique there is no such bureau that looks after food composition? Surely there is and why was Frozy not banned there? Ever since Malawians started drinking Frozy I have never heard someone complaining about it health-wise unlike these beers which the bureau is failing to impose a ban on,” he queried.
Kaunda added that the bureau seems to be operating under the influence of soft drink power-house SOBO so that the company can regain its grip on the market which was shaky due to the coming of Frozy.
“I can assure you that before this ban by MBS, SOBO officials have been telling us to stop selling Frozy because it was reducing their profits,” he said
But the MBS said it inspected samples of Frozy and found that the level of citric acid in the drinks ranged from 2,240 to 5,376 mg/kg compared with a permitted maximum of 3,000 mg/kg.
As for sodium benzoate, the permitted maximum in Malawi is 1,000 mg/kg, but the Frozy drinks were found to be hugely in excess of this, with levels of between 3,248 and 4,256 mg/kg.