By most accounts, the production of sachet water, popularly called “pure water’’, has been a major source of income for many people across the country.
Economists note that the production, marketing and consumption of sachet water have recently increased tremendously, as the money-spinning business now has several brands on sale.
Attesting to this, Dr Paul Orhii, Director-General of National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), said that a lot of money was realised daily from the sales of sachet water across the country.
Due to the lucrative nature of the business, Orhii, during a visit to Brig.-Gen. Johnson Olawumi, the Director-General of National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) in Abuja, said that a lot of people had ventured into sachet water production.
He, nonetheless, expressed regret that in spite of the prospects of the business, some sachet water producers had willfully decided not to follow the regulations prescribed for sachet water production by NAFDAC.
He lamented that the environment in which some of the sachet water producers operated was not hygienic, while some of them had not registered with the agency.
In view of this, Mr Olatunbosun Adeoye, an environmentalist, argued that NAFDAC should be more proactive in determining the prerequisites for sachet water production so as to ensure the safety of the public.
He alleged that some sachet water producers packaged untreated water from various sources and labeled it as “pure water’’ with fake NAFDAC registration number on the sachets.
Another environmentalist, Mr Lekan Agboola, noted that in some cases, consumers had expressed concern with the appearance and taste of some sachet water with NAFDAC numbers.
He said that in recent years, some research had been carried out in various parts of the country to determine the purity of sachet water.
He stressed that the results of the research revealed that the “pure water’’ might not be completely “pure’’ and safe for human consumption because of the unhygienic conditions in which the water was processed.
In the light of this, NAFDAC says that it has begun a nationwide assessment of sachet water factories, as part of efforts to ensure the wholesomeness of the water,
Mr. Abubakar Jimoh, the Director of Special Duties in NAFDAC, said that the agency had introduced modern mobile laboratory equipment for the survey.
He said that the equipment was used for onsite physical-chemical microbiological test analysis to ensure that the sachet water being sold to the public met safety standards.
Jimoh said that the agency had carried out the exercise in Nasarawa State, adding that the sachet water analysis was going on in some parts of the country.
“We are still trying to build on the latest technology; we have introduced another technology called modern mobile laboratory equipment used for testing the quality of water.
“The technology was inaugurated in Abuja about three months ago and right now, the mobile laboratory for testing water is working.
“We have used it in scanning and testing water; we will move all over the country to test the quality of water being sold to the public,’’ he added.
Jimoh said that the essence of testing sachet water was to safeguard the health of Nigerians by ensuring the safety of the water being sold to the public.
However, in some places, where the technology has yet to be introduced, NAFDAC is using other methods to ensure the safety of the sachet water on sale.
For instance, Mr Kayode Fagboyo, the NAFDAC Coordinator in Osun, said that some sachet water factories were recently shut in the state because they failed to meet with the required standards.
He said that the agency had to close down the sachet water factories, following complaints by some consumers over the quality of the water produced by the affected factories.
“Through our field survey, we have discovered that many of the factories are no longer producing sachet water under the conditions which made us to grant them the approval to produce in the first instance.
“We have now made it clear to all sachet water producers that we will be visiting their factories once in a month unannounced.
“If we get to any factory and we find out that the conditions which existed when the production approval was given no longer exist; we will withdraw the approval and appropriate sanctions will be imposed on the factory,’’ he said.
Fagboyo reiterated the commitment of NAFDAC to ensuring the eradication of counterfeit drugs, foods and cosmetics in the state.
“What we did in 2013 was to appeal to the conscience of sachet water producers in the state through a workshop we organised for them on the need to strictly adhere to production standards.
“Henceforth, any person caught producing or selling sachet water without NAFDAC approved registration number will be made to face the wrath of the law,’’ he warned.
He emphasised that routine inspection of sachet water factories by NAFDAC officials would continue in all parts of the state.
Fagboyo advised the owners of food and drug factories to comply with NAFDAC’s production guidelines, urging the public to also be conscious of the products they bought.
He, however, vowed that NAFDAC would make concerted and pragmatic efforts to stamp out the sales of unregistered sachet water across the country.
Although some concerned citizens have proposed a total ban on the production and sale of sachet water, observers insist that the inadequacies in public water supply and economic benefits of sachet water production should also be considered.
They, however, recommend that in the meantime, NAFDAC should be encouraged to intensify its efforts to ensure strict compliance with the standards set for the production of sachet water and other food items. (NAN)