Take care to check expiry dates

In Summary

It does not make business sense for a manufacturer worthy of their brand and reputation to […]

It does not make business sense for a manufacturer worthy of their brand and reputation to intentionally make a product unsafe for human consumption writes Bijoy Varghese.

It is obligatory for all manufacturers of perishable foods to place expiry dates on their products. Retailers have a responsibility to remove expired products from the shelves. Unfortunately, some traders and retailers do not always maintain correct control of their stock and others even go so far as to tamper with the products by removing or adjusting these dates.

But as an added precaution, consumers are also expected to check these dates before making a purchase. Consumers who do not properly check the dates can suffer the consequences of out of date food items. Recently there was a public outcry to the Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) over the increased cases of expired foodstuffs on sale.

As the country slowly eases out of the Covid-19 lockdown, consumers are strongly advised to be extremely vigilant when buying certain products especially perishables.  The lockdown caused disruptions in the supply chain. It is under these circumstances that out of date stock has remained on the shelves and in some instances unscrupulous traders tamper with packaging and expiry dates to cover their losses.

When a consumer buys an item that turns out to be stale or sub-standard the first reaction is to blame the manufacturer. This is understandable, but not always fair. Other factors beyond the control of the manufacturer come into play that can affect the quality of that product. Studies show that once a product leaves the manufacturer tampering can occur during storage and retailing.

As processors of one of the most essential foods for good health, we are extremely sensitive to the quality of our products and the health of our customers. Lato Milk has a very rigid system in place that is strictly enforced to ensure that the milk products we sell are not only up to standard, but of high quality. Being a milk processor, value addition is key in this industry and that is why we are continuously implementing new innovations to increase the shelf-life of our products.  Our products including UHT Milk, Lato Milk powder, ghee, and butter all go through a standardized process.

This process begins with the dairy farmers who supply us with raw milk.Extremely high standards of hygiene and quality assurance are practiced across the company’s dairy value chain by all the actors involved.This is because good-quality raw milk is required to make good-quality dairy products.

To ensure this is achieved, Pearl Dairy Farm Ltd established the Pearl Dairy Farmers Community, an initiative where over 50 Dairy Development Executives(DDE) are trained and skilled in good dairy practices to increase the overall productivity of dairy farmers while improving the quality of the milk produced. These DDE are placed on lead farms where they provide hands-on support and also reach out to the community through the numerous intensive training sessions in order to help farmers to deliver high quality raw milk to our factory in Mbarara.

The raw milk is then taken through Ultra Heat Treatment (UHT) that increases the shelf-life of the milk and packed in Tetra Brik® Aseptic packs to ensure milk safety, providing consumers with the convenience to store the milk in ambient conditions even without the need for refrigeration.

We also work closely with UNBS, the retailers/traders and all the middle-men to ensure that quality products are supplied to our customers.  But it is also important for end users to remember the saying, ‘buyer beware’.

Customers should take care to check the type of product that they want to buy. Some products like milk once opened, can only last between five to seven days when stored in a refrigerator. Any fluctuations in the temperature can spoil the product.  Some customers prefer to buy powder milk for its greater convenience and longevity of up to 18 months. It is important to ensure that at the point of sale the milk powder is tightly sealed when you buy it and while it’s in storage ensure its not overly exposed to air.

As a major player and supporter of ‘Buy Uganda Build Uganda’ (BUBU), we have continued to pave the way for great innovation in the dairy industry. The high quality of our products is now recognized both locally and internationally. In the 2019 People’s Choice Awards, Lato Milk emerged winner in the Best Milk Category. Regulators, including UNBS and several other quality check authorities have approved our Lato Milk products.

As manufacturers, it is mandatory to adhere to the health and safety guidelines set out and enforced by the Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) that stipulate all products are clearly marked with the made-by and sell-by dates before they are dispatched to the market. We call upon all customers to always look out for the expiry dates before consuming any perishable food products, not only milk but other items like soda, flour, biscuits, cooking oil and so on.

Bijoy Varghese is the General Manager of Pearl Dairy Farms Limited, one of Uganda’s biggest milk processors

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