Rwanda Standards Board (RSB) officials have cautioned Rwandans against buying bottled water that is sold in the streets, especially in car parks, due to counterfeiting being mainly practised by street hawkers.
Dr Mark Cyubahiro Bagabe, the director-general of RSB, to Rwanda Today that the board was working with local leaders to arrest the counterfeiters since they can affect people’s health.
“People are collecting bottles form dustbins and using them in their business in illegal ways; that’s why we ask Rwandans and other people to be careful when buying any beverage packaged in those bottles,” said Dr Cyubahiro.
The announcement followed growing safety concerns among consumers over the hygiene of the water that is packaged in plastic battles picked up from areas such as workplaces and rubbish bins and reused in inappropriate ways.
Street vendors are said to use the bottles to pack unpurified water and cooking oil, which are then sold to unsuspecting low-income earners. They also pack traditional medicines in the dirty bottles.
Many people have been wondering how these bottles are cleaned before being reused without any controlled purification, saying that can lead to diseases as some of them previously contained dangerous substances which are harmful to human health.
Jeannette Mukeshimana is a collector of bottles. She said that after collecting the bottles, they wash them with soap and water since some are very dirty and then sell them to other business people who use them for either water or cooking oil packaging.
“We collect those bottles from different parts of the city, either from meeting rooms or workplaces, but there are other bottles that we get from rubbish bins,” said MS Mukeshimana. “We pack them in big sacks and sell them to our clients to be reused in their business.
“An empty bottle fetches Rwf10.
“While bottled water is usually sold at Rwf300, those who use such bottles sell theirs at between Rwf100 and Rwf200 after cooling them in the fridge.”
RSB officials however said that they always urge manufacturers to control their packaging materials lest their company brand gets ruined by those who use them in illegal ways.
“Even though it’s our responsibility to fight against such illegal practices, we cannot achieve it without the people’s participation,” said Dr Cyubahiro. “We ask especially local leaders and manufacturing companies to curb the spread of this harmful business.
“Many people do not understand the danger of such dishonest practices; they wait for someone to fall sick or die before they stop it.”
Unregulated impurities inside the bottled water may not be the only reason for worry, he added.
Dr Cyubahiro explained that there was also the danger of chemicals and other dangerous substances being leached from the plastic container over a period of time or in particular temperatures, which can cause diseases.