Manufacturers of hand sanitizers have decried the presence of substandard and counterfeit products on the market.
The demand for hand sanitizers shot up in April last year following the outbreak of coronavirus in Uganda, as Ugandans learnt that it was an effective way of killing almost of all germs.
By October 2020, at least 210 companies, both small and large-scale had been certified by the Uganda National Bureau of Standards, to manufacture hand sanitizers.
The emergency need for prevention of the pandemic forced UNBS to invoke the provisions of the standards developed in 2013 for hand sanitizers and septic agents or disinfectants, to ensure quality standard products on the market.
This standard coded US EAS 789: 2013 was also agreed upon by countries in the East African Community and was approved as marching with international standards.
The standard is due for a review since it has been in existence for more than five years, and the standards agency calls on interested stakeholders to submit their views ahead of the planned review.
The need for a standard was also because sanitizers would be easier to use due to portability than soap and water, though the latter, if well used, is considered more effective against the virus, according to the UNBS.
The major requirement for the alcoholic sanitizer is an alcoholic content of between 60 and 95%, without any additions from what was stated when applying for the certification.
The product required onto the market is also expected to be attractive to either most or all users, especially as regards the smell. It also spells out specifications for packaging and labelling, with the name and location of the company, the name of the brand and the alcoholic content, while the packaging should not be reactive when it gets into contact with the contents.
However, UNBS says they are not limited to this one standard and more may be made depending on the developments in the industry.
“These are the standards that we are covering, what we’re having, for now, we are not saying we’re limited to these. We’re saying that standards are demand-driven.
Innovations have come, maybe people have more of what they have developed in terms of sanitization and disinfectants. So your applications are welcome”, says Prossy Nabaggala from the UNBS Standards Department.
Ronald Ahimbisibwe, the Principal Certification Officer says there will not be any compromise on the standards of sanitizers because, on top of protecting the health of the people and the environment generally, it might even affect the export market.
Local manufactures have called on the government to limit the importation of sanitizers, saying that Ugandans are being out competed by the cheap imports.
However, despite the existence of standards and their enforcement, some manufacturers say substandard products are on the market, especially in crowded places of Kampala.
Others say that most Ugandans, manufacturers and consumers, do not know how to differentiate between a good product and the substandard one, calling for more sensitization and translation of standards into different vernaculars.
But others condemn UNBS enforcement style of naming and shaming companies or brands that have not met all the requirements because they tarnish the names and make it hard for such products to penetrate the market when they are finally certified.
Ahimbisibwe says stopping imports could also affect Uganda export markets, while it also risks violating international laws.
He urges the manufacturers to concentrate on quality and cutting the cost of operations to be able to compete with imports