Do you wake up with sore muscles or back aches? This could be due to your favourite mattress, according to the Kenya Bureau of Standards.
Kebs says that in the last one year, it has withdrawn permits for at least 20 companies in the country for manufacturing substandard mattresses.
Speaking to the Sunday Nation, Kebs managing director Bernard Njiraini raised alarm over the increase in sub-standard products, a move he attributed to cut throat competition among manufacturers.
He cited the influx of high-density mattresses in the market, where he pointed out that manufactures are adding fillers, mixing them with the correct form in a bid to hoodwink consumers that they are of good quality.
“Manufacturers are not using proper raw materials for making mattresses. They are not making proper mattresses, this is why you find some mattresses as hard as a rock, Kenyans think that it is high-density but it is bad material to sleep on,” he said.
“The high-density is supposed to be hard enough to sustain the pressure but if it’s hard like a rock and it causes discomfort, then that is a point of concern. Kenyans are busy thinking it is the best but it is one of the most dangerous mattresses to sleep on,” he said.
He added they will continue to withdraw licences of those flouting the standards, noting such products cause health hazards.
“It is a question of competition as they use the substandard products, they are able to cut cost, which is wrong. As we take these actions, the compliance improves and we allow them back in the market,” Mr Njiraini said.
Mr Njiraini said importers of bulky products must ensure that the goods are tested in the country of origin and a certificate of conformity issued.
He noted that in the past, individuals have been importing bulky products including sugar, grains, and even fertilisers, and without a certificate, and later they are rejected.
“At times during the testing, the amount of pressure that we get is so huge. For us to avoid the inconveniences, ensure that if you are bringing bulky goods into the country, they is properly tested,” he said
On products including motor vehicle tyres, roofing sheets (painting quality) and new medical equipment parts, he revealed that Kenya has no capacity, equipment to test hence relying on foreign companies to do the testing.
Kenya engaged third party partners commonly referred to as PVOC to undertake pre shipment inspection, however since they are foreign based it is also important for us as a country to develop our capacity in inspection to safeguard our interests.
“Testing for tyres used to be done by Yana Company but it closed down and at the same time, we cannot be relying on an interested company to be doing the testing for us. It is a challenge but we normally insist on thorough testing since it is the only alternative way. No country can have all equipment for testing,” he said
He adds “We cannot delegate all our responsibilities to foreigners, we need to develop our own mechanisms to test these goods coming from other countries,” he said.
He, however, pointed out that for products like arms and ammunition, Kebs does not have the technical capacity to test their conformity and have left the duty to the military who are the end users.
“As Kebs, we are not able to know whether a gun can shoot a certain range hence it is the business of the military to do that,” Mr Njiraini said.
In line with the international best practices, Kebs has now authorised companies to submit samples to other laboratories accredited to test and submit acceptable results.
Renewal of permits
“Since we are the only body that is authorised to test for standards, we use to get so many samples, there was a lot of delay, we were overwhelmed, that’s why we authorised that other accredited laboratories could help us in testing of the products,” Mr Njiraini said adding that it is likely to reduce the amount of time being taken when samples are submitted.
It has also revised renewal of permits from one year to two years
“The permit will now be lasting for two years and in the period, the officers will be carrying market surveillance of the products to ascertain that they are meeting the requirement,” this is one of the reforms that the standards is undertaking in quality assurance,” he said
He revealed that the multi agency activities of 2018 were occasioned by the realisation that there was high level of non compliance of imported goods. Subsequently, the government directed all goods to come with certificate of conformity but this also had it own challenges as there was delay in getting the certificates. This increased the cost of doing business hence, allowing destination inspection of non risky products to facilitate trade.
“We have re-evaluated this and running two parallel systems, we decided that traders can either test abroad or locally. Inspection abroad sometimes takes very long and small traders were not able to get certificate of conformity on time, we have allowed them to bring and we inspect here,” he said
Mr Njiraini explained that products that have failed standards in the past have bad track records in the country. He said that it is always advisable to carry out random risk-based inspection. The country cannot fully rely on foreigners to test the products.
He said that a number of cosmetics that enter the Kenyan market through the porous borders are not good for use since they contain mercury and hydroquinone.
Unfortunately, neighbouring countries including Uganda and DR Congo where the cosmetics are mostly outsourced, have not banned them.
“There are certain places in the country where you are likely to get the products. Women travel to the countries and carry them in their small handbags and sneak them into the country. These makes it difficult to control but we have been raiding the shops where they sell them,” he said
Considering that we are in tropical region which is favourable to growth of fungi and molds that are sources of aflatoxin, Kebs among other agencies have heightened surveillance to ensure aflatoxin level is maintained at 10ppb. Kebs has seized over ten brands in the past for non compliance. Aflatoxin is normally found in maize flour, peanut butter among other products.
“We have been collecting samples across the country subject them to test and if aflatoxins is beyond 10, we flag them and instruct the manufacturers to withdraw the product from the market,” he said
In 2019 and last year, Kebs ordered manufacturers to recall about 10 peanut butter brands from the market citing high levels of aflatoxin higher than the maximum limit allowed by the Standard and even suspended the companies’ permits that allowed them to use the Standardisation mark.
Aflatoxin is a class of toxic compounds produced by certain molds found in food. It can cause liver damage and cancer.
“Regulating this has become a big challenge but we have come with a coordinated committee to see what can be done all the way from production to post harvesting. Farmers need to be sensitized on how they should dry their maize and the national government provide driers. The National Cereals and Produce Board should be able to test the moisture content and aflatoxin to curb the problem,” he said.