The Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) has suspended permits to use the KEBS marks of quality on their products for 369 water bottling firms which have violated the water standards. Some of these violations include companies operating without valid permits from KEBS, noncompliance to requirements of the relevant water standards such as the code of hygiene, using suspect sources of water, poor and misleading labelling.
KEBS permits have been suspended in accordance with the Standards Act CAP 496 of the Laws of Kenya and KEBS scheme of supervision and control.
The suspension comes in the wake of complaints from consumers on the quality of bottled water which has been in the market. Speaking during the a meeting attended by over four hundred (400) water manufacturing firms in Kenya, KEBS Managing Director, Charles Ongwae, said there has been an upsurge of unscrupulous water bottling firms which are not adhering to the laid down standards and procedures.
The KEBS Managing Director informed the suspended permit holders that KEBS is committed to work with them to achieve the required standards as a condition to recertification.
Mr. Ongwae, said water being a high risk product, there is an urgent need to ensure compliance to all regulations by the bottlers. The sector has been infiltrated by fraudulent players who are bottling substandard water and selling it to unsuspecting consumers. "Water is listed as a high risk commodity and a slight contamination can lead to sickness or even loss of life", added Ongwae.
The water bottling business is guided by the Kenya Standards/East Africa standards for bottled water whereby the water classification is determined by the source of the water and the method of purification.
Challenges in the water bottling industry:
Some of the key challenges are as follows;
- Manufactures installing filtration systems without first seeking information on the requirements set out in standards. This includes;
- Quality of the source water
- Specifications for water
- Code of hygiene
- Operating companies relocating and not informing KEBS of the new location.
- Lack of willingness to renew the permits on time
- Manufacturers using similar brand names without registering with KIPI
- Manufacturer's not identifying known suppliers of water treatment equipment hence purchasing equipment that are not efficient for water treatment.
- Manufacturers making labels with Standardization mark that have not been issued to them by KEBS.
Kenya/East African Standards for Water
1. KS EAS 12:2014 - portable water specification
2. KS EAS 13:2014 - packaged natural water
3. KS EAS 153:2014 - packaged drinking water
4. KS 459-1:2007 - drinking water part 1
5. KS 459-9:1996 - code of hygiene practice
6. KS EAS 39:2000 - hygiene in the food and drink manufacturing industry - code of practice
7. KS EAS 38:2014 - labeling of pre-packaged foods - general requirements