Parliament directs UNBS, NDA to investigate all energy drinks on caffeine levels

The Parliamentary Committee on Trade, Tourism and Industry has directed the Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) and National Drug Authority (NDA) to investigate all energy drinks and komubuchas to ascertain the levels of caffeine and adulteration.

While meeting the officials from UNBS, NDA and Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) yesterday (Friday), November 26, 2021, on non-conformity to standards of health and energy drinks, the Committee chaired by Mr Mwine Mpaka, the Member of Parliament for Mbarara City South Division, called UNBS and NDA to conduct a forensic investigation that involves collecting samples of all the health, energy and komubucha drinks and having them tested for caffeine levels and adulteration. 

“We are going to request you to verify and have all the energy drinks tested. We also want all those komubucha drinks to be tested for their caffeine levels and if any is adulterated,” Mr Mpaka said.

For purposes of neutrality, Mr Mpaka said that the Committee will also take the samples to an independent internationally recognised laboratory to do further tests to ensure that neither UNBS nor NDA compromises the results.

“So we shall then compare the findings of NDA, UNBS and the independent laboratory and if the results are varying then we are going to be in trouble. So you cannot change these results. Go and do the exact thing and give us exact results,” he said. 

“We shall communicate through the clerk after meeting the Speaker and identifying the independent lab, but in the meantime, UNBS should go and do the necessary investigations on all these companies, not only Rock Boom,” he continued.

According to Mr Dennis Mwesigwa, the Senior Inspector of drugs at NDA, the Authority recently collected and analysed samples of six out of the 11 energy drinks from the market to assess the sample for caffeine and conventional aphrodisiacs (Sildenafil, Vardenafil and Tadalafil) as requested by the Committee.  

“The analyses have revealed that only one product (Rock Boom) out of the 11 products that was found to have a caffeine content of 39.46mg/100ml, which exceeds the allowable limit under the Standard as well as the content desired on the product label,” Mr Mwesigwa told the committee, adding that, “there was no detectable adulteration of sildenafil, vardenafil and tadalafil in all the samples tested. These aphrodisiacs contain components that stimulate sexual desire.

Under Uganda Standard US 47:2011, where caffeine is used as a flavouring agent, the amount of caffeine in the drink should not exceed 200mg/kg and where caffeine is used as a functional agent such as energy drinks, the amount of caffeine in the drink should not exceed 320mg/kg.

Apparently, there is no provision for caffeine limits in komubucha drinks, an issue that worried the MPs on the Committee who demanded that caffeine limits as per the UNBS standard should apply to all drinks on the market including komubuchas.

“The standard that was locally developed for komubucha was recent (2019) and the parameters discussed at that time did not include caffeine because the ingredients used in these products have natural amounts of caffeine. So this was not looked into as an issue. However, if it is seen as an issue to be considered then it shall be done so,” said Ms Patricia Ejalu, the Deputy ED-Standards at UNBS.

Misleading adverts

The Committee is also concerned about the misleading adverts that are being published by manufacturers of some energy drinks disguising their products as curative health products that can cure ailments like cancer among others.

“We wrote to all our certified komubucha and energy drink producers and asked each of them to submit their adverts to ensure their labels and products are meeting the standards. We have given them a deadline of 30th November to comply. We intend to review this and have a meeting with NDA and UCC on 12th December on the way forward,” Ms Ejalu said.

The committee further warned companies that are producing these drinks against breaching the law that standardise their operations to avoid health hazards to the consumers.

“This committee is supposed to facilitate trade. But when we see something going wrong, we cannot keep quiet. So, this is not a political matter. It is a scientific issue which will be proved by the laboratory tests. If these companies are breaching the law especially on issues relating with health, then politics cannot be applied,”Mr  Mpaka said.

The National Drug Policy Act and Regulations bars any company from making any publication or advertisement for drugs without the approval of the Authority.

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