Consumers are panicking over fears that one batch of the trademark Sobo Orange Squash may have defects in its composition.
Although it has not yet been established, the product under that batch may be harmful for human consumption.
An independent investigation which The Daily Times carried earlier this week found that Sobo Orange Squash with an expiry date of May 2018 had an appearance and taste of a fizzy drink and the product was packaged in bottles with an abnormal shape and produced bad odour in other cases.
When shaken, the product was producing air bags and formed a visibly yellowish streak.
Some of the people we spoke to who have consumed the drink said it made them sick.
New shareholders of the Sobo brand, Castel Group, when contacted confirmed the product is theirs and that its two batches of the product, batch number 286 and 287, are defective.
Castel said it has initiated a recall which targets 18,000 bottles of the defective batch.
Castel Corporate Communications Officer, Towera Munthali, confirmed 3,000 cases of Sobo two-litre bottles are affected and that it had sent alert to customers to return the product.
However, spot checks The Daily Times conducted on Monday and Tuesday this week found that the product is still on the market with reputable retailers including Game Stores, Shoprite, Chipuku and Ask Wholesalers in Limbe stocking the product.
While the retailers and Castel indicated that they had not received any complaint yet, Malawi Bureau of Standards Executive Director, Davlin Chokazinga, said the bureau is running tests on the affected product after receiving official complaints from consumers.
“The product is in our laboratory now to find out what went wrong,” he said.
Chokazinga, however, bemoaned the tendency of not reporting to the right authorities when people experience something unusual with various products on the market.
“It’s sad that sometimes people decide to keep quiet over such important things. We test such things for free. Imagine, we only got one complaint, which we are now investigating, yet there are so many people out there who are complaining of the same on social media and other platforms,” he said.
One of the people we spoke to, Maria Kazembe, said she had been having some stomach upsets and believes it is as a result of consuming the drink.
Castel says it is treating the issue as a special case where consumers can visit the company’s head office to return affected products and get immediate replacement.
Munthali said Castel has done its independent tests and that the results have shown that contents are not hazardous to humans.
“Our plan is to have the withdrawal concluded today [Tuesday],” she said.
When queried on why the company had taken long to act after receiving complaints last week [Friday], Munthali said the company has a process which it follows to resolve complaints.
Munthali alleged that the organisations learnt about the issue over the weekend, ironically, they only confirmed about it when The Daily Times confronted the organisation with the findings of our investigations.
“Following this, we are conducting further investigations,” she said.
The Competition and Fair Trading Commission (CFTC) has since indicated that it will work with other regulators to investigate the matter.
CFTC Director of Consumer Welfare and Education, Lewis Kulisewa, in an emailed response said if it is proven that the product was impure, the commission will take appropriate action against the manufacturer in accordance with the Competition and Fair Trading Act.
“The commission has noted information alleging that some Sobo Orange Squash batches are adulterated. The commission will work alongside other regulators to investigate the matter,” he said.
Sobo Orange Squash is widely loved by the Malawi population largely because of its unique taste and less percentage of acid as compared to other carbonated drinks.
Castel Group bought 59.48 percent of the shares in Carlsberg Malawi Limited, becoming the majority shareholders while Press Corporation Limited is the minority shareholder with 39.65 percent.
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