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NDA, UNBS, UCC In Joint Fight Against "False Health Drink", Adverts

The three agencies have separately come under fire for alleged failure to perform their roles, which has abetted the misinformation. However, the three government agencies have agreed to coordinate regarding information sharing and issuance of coordinated directives, for effective enforcement of the policies. The have agreed to coordinate regarding information sharing, and issuing coordinated directives, effective enforcement of policies.
Kazire-Vit-Fruit-Drink. Some local companies of non-carbonated soft drinks have been accused of misinforming the public to gain market advantage.

Audio 5

Three government agencies have teamed up to fight misinformation surrounding non-carbonated drinks marketed mainly through electronic media as health drinks. 

The Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS), National Drug Authority (NDA) and the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) agree that there is a growing number of advertisements for products claiming nutritional and therapeutic (healing) value on television, radio and social media.

The three agencies have separately come under fire in the past for alleged failure to perform their roles, which has abetted the misinformation. However, the three government agencies have agreed to coordinate regarding information sharing and issuance of coordinated directives, for effective enforcement of the policies. 

UCC, the regulator of the electronic media, has always warned media houses of repercussions for the continued airing of advertisements of such drinks and related services, which claim to have health benefits without any medical proof. However, most of the media houses have not heeded to the warnings and caution by the regulators.     

Yet, these advertisements exaggerate the therapeutic capability of the products, hence misleading the public and therefore exposing the users to danger. UCC also says that some of the ads, especially the visual content on TV and social media, portray inappropriate content.      

The culprits are also on the spot for claiming that their products various and even unrelated diseases, which is often medically impossible. The media platforms that publish these advertisements could be contravening sections 12 and 13 of Annex 14 of the Advertising Standards issued by the UCC. 

Anthony Kwehangana, the Director at Applied Industrial Innovations, a local agro-industry company, says this is highly affecting people who are doing genuine business. 

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The agencies say for a media house to accept the advertisement of a product, it will have to first verify that it is cleared by both the standards body, UNBS and the regulator of drug standards, NDA.  It is claimed that the makers of such products and producers of herbal medicines, as well as self-proclaimed traditional healers or spiritualists, offer media houses a lot of money to run their adverts and programs. 

Some say that in fact, some radio stations, especially in the rural areas, get more than half of their earnings from advertisers of the health drinks, herbalists and spiritualists. Meddy Kaggwa, the Head of Multimedia Content at UCC, says broadcasters they have queried over promoting these products, usually claim that they consider anything that carries a UNBS mark safe for human consumption and therefore safe to promote.  

 

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The Secretary-General of the Rural Broadcasters Association of Uganda, Anthony Wanyoto, blames UNBS for negating its duty of sensitizing the public and engaging the responsible persons like the broadcasters. Wanyoto explains that even where management prohibits such adverts, they are at times smuggled into programs by individual staff at the media houses. 

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Section 33 (1)(c) of the National Drug Policy and Authority Act, Cap 206 prohibits the advertisement and publication of information that is calculated to promote the use of a drug for prevention or treatment of any disease or relating to enhancing human potency. 

In addition, Section 5 (1) to (5) in the Food and Drugs Act, Cap 278 prohibits the false labelling or advertisement of food or drug. Asked for a response as a consumer, the Executive Director of Consumer Education Trust, Richard Henry Kimera also urged media houses to ask for approval by both NDA and UNBS before they take on any products for advertisement.

He says it is also a moral issue on the side of the manufacturers that they deceive the public by making health claims for their products. He, however, says that unless there is strict enforcement of the policies that the agencies have agreed on, there will be no difference. 

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In an interaction with importers, manufacturers and distributors of non-carbonated soft drinks, the three agencies warned all manufacturers of such beverages and media houses engaged in running these deceptive adverts to desist from such practices with immediate effect.

“Any manufacturer or media house found in violation of these requirements will face sanctions in accordance with the laws put in place by government to protect consumer health and safety from these dangerous deceptive practices”, they said in a joint statement. 

The UNBS Head of Market Surveillance Department, Daniel Arorwa accused manufacturers of diverting from the terms and conditions for which they have been certified. He explains that it is common for a product to be on the market bearing a genuine UNBS quality mark, but with a mismatch between the contents of the product and the samples submitted for certification. 

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