April 24, 2015 By Alusine Sesay
Deputy Executive Director of the Sierra Leone Standards Bureau, Amadu Jorgor Bah, has told Concord Times in an exclusive interview that the bureau has set up a national standards for all alcoholic products in the country.
Health Network, a civil society organization had in a press conference urged the government to draft a national policy on the production and consumption of alcohol, noting that most local alcohol producing companies were not following standards, thus endangering the future of the youth population.
However, the Standards Bureau Deputy Executive Director said their responsibility is limited to three fundamental functions: the development of national standards, conducting test, inspection, certification, and measurement and calibration of instruments.
He said the Bureau’s technical committee, which is inclusive of major stakeholders, including civil society organizations and alcohol manufacturing companies, in 2011 deliberated and agreed on the volume of alcohol that should be present in various alcoholic beverages produced in the country.
He said the 2011 national standards was published in the gazette and is binding on all alcoholic manufacturing companies to strictly go by its content, as failure will attract the action of the Bureau to close the operation of the defaulting company.
He added that based on international standards, the Bureau’s technical committee agreed on varied volumes of alcohol for various alcoholic products, and that the percentage ranges from 38% for brandy, 40% for gin, 24% for wine, 40% for alcoholic beverages, to 42% for whisky.
Aside from the test they conduct for alcoholic manufacturing companies, he said the Bureau conducts quarterly monitoring to ensure that companies follow set standards and that 90% of them adhere to those standards.
“The essence of standards is to facilitate trade and market and companies may have their own standards, but such should not be at variance with the national standards. We were first conducting annual inspection but now doing it quarterly,” he said. “We monitor them and as well conduct test for them after every six months. We inspect the labeling and if such is not in conformity with the national standards, then the bureau will close the company.”
Mr. Bah said due to adherence of standards by the companies, Sierra Leone alcohol products are hitting the sub-regional markets.
Since alcohol is 90% water, he said, the Bureau also inspects water used by the companies to determine whether it is pure and hygienic for human consumption, adding: “We are very much concerned about the type of water they use so as to prevent consumers from diarrhea.”
He said all alcoholic manufacturing companies have hygrometer, an instrument used to measure the volume of alcohol, although most do not have internal laboratories, which is not mandatory.
“All the companies are doing business and would not want to run at a loss by placing more than the required volume of alcohol in their products,” he said.
Having being in existence for five years, he said the Bureau will in 2016 review the 2011 national standards to march with the trend, and added that they would look into the standard of vodka whisky produced in Russia.