Godwin Bonge Muhwezi
The foods and beverages sector is one of the fastest growing in Uganda which has resulted into growing demand for well packaged products. Packaging is important in building product brand identity and in ensuring that such a product meets requirements for certification.
The Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) has developed various standards for packaging to guarantee production and delivery of safe and hygienic drinks and food products. The standards can be procured online from the UNBS webstore: https://webstore.unbs.go.ug
To guarantee that food and drinks are safe for consumption, manufacturers and producers must demonstrate that the packaging material used meets quality and safety standards. The material used should not lead to cross-contamination which occurs once harmful contaminants are transferred from a packaging material to the product.
The raw materials used in the manufacture of packaging items for food and beverages should be of food grade such that they do not contaminate foods and drinks with harmful substances once the come in contact with them. This can be determined by carrying analytical tests. Therefore, it is a requirement that before packages are used, they should be accompanied with relevant certificates of analysis to demonstrate that they are fit for packing a particular product.
The packaging should not have adverse effect on the food product through chemical reaction, or absorbing packaging material. Some packaging materials such as polythene bags commonly known as Kaveera are prohibited for use in packaging of carbonated and non-carbonated soft drinks and fruit juices.
The packaging product should not be adversely affected or react with the food product in a way that changes its properties or affects its protective function. The packaging material should not cause unacceptable changes in the taste, or smell of the food. It should be strong enough to hold the contents when subjected to normal handling.
As part of packaging, clear labelling is required to ensure that the product meets specifications of various standards for food and drinks. According to the packaging standards, all processed products for human consumption should be correctly labelled in accordance to the requirements of specific standards on labelling. Some of the things to look out on labels include batch number, date of manufacture, expiry date, ingredients and other additives particularly preservatives.
Use of deceptive labelling on product packages is prohibited. In an Administrative Directive in 2015, UNBS banned the use of “statements or any pictorials which may create confusion in the mind of the public or may mislead the public about the nature, origin, composition and products of soft drinks and carbonated drinks”.
For instance, the use of images of fruits on juices manufactured from concentrates is prohibited. The rationale behind this is that the use of such image is likely to be misinterpreted by the consumer that the juice has been manufactured from fresh fruits contrary to the actual practice of developing producing juice from concentrates. Banning the use of fresh fruit images is to protect consumers from deceptive product labelling.
The correct weight and volume of the product should be clearly labelled on the package in line with the requirements UNBS weights and measures and pre-packaging regulations.
To maintain the quality of fresh fruits and vegetables, it is recommended the material used for transportation should be rectangular and parallel piped (Wood, Paperboard, or Plastic) and it should not introduce usual odour or alter the taste of the produce.
Lastly, foods and drinks are covered by compulsory standards and it is now a requirement (Starting 1st July 2018) that all such products must bear the UNBS distinctive mark (Q-Mark) before they are allowed on the market.
Therefore it is important that manufacturers and producer invest in using good packaging materials as it will go a long way in building the product brand identity and in ensuring that it meets the required standards.
The Writer is the Head of Public Relations at Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS).