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After meat and fish, let’s now go for tainted fuel

Last week opened pretty much with the unsettling news of the arrest of butchers, accused of lacing meat, fish and chicken with shelf-life-prolonging chemicals – and ended with the conviction and sentencing of six people to eight months in jail.

These six were found guilty of “causing a nuisance by spraying harmful chemicals on meat and fish” largely to kill or turn away flies.”

Public suspicions about meat being laced with chemicals such as formalin, a preservative for dead bodies, are not new. In fact, it was always widely talked about that meat and milk were benefiting from formalin dousing to extend shelf life.

What was new, however, was the crackdown by low-functioning teams from city authorities and Uganda National Bureau of Standards.

These teams didn’t act until media reports highlighted the breadth and depth of the illegal and potentially harmful practice.

In Uganda, a lot is wrong with our food, drinks, lotions, clothes, sprays, shoes, fuel, name it. There are simply too many counterfeits, adulterated or tainted products lying in plain sight on the shelves. But the quality controllers are doing little or nothing to protect consumers.

For instance, it’s widely known that there is a lot of adulterated fuel on the market and the culprits are known. But the quality controllers always urge motor vehicle owners to only fill up at certain ‘trusted’ dealers. Really!

Last year, The Observer reported on a reputed quality controller who issued an internal memo to their drivers urging them to fill up only at Shell and Total fuel stations. The memo was issued after the organisation, a fuel regulator, discovered that it was spending a lot of money fixing its cars messed up by adulterated fuel.

Therefore, last week’s crackdown and jailing of errant butchers should not be a one-off. It should herald a shift in gears for supervising agencies such as KCCA, UNBS and the ministries of Health and Agriculture which must now take their mandate of carrying out regular inspections seriously.

Most markets or eateries in this country don’t pass the hygiene test. The same applies to fuel stations concerning minimum standards. Let’s save lives by reining in all unscrupulous players.

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