Trade committee wants all energy drinks tested for adulteration

Some of the energy drinks under contention. URN photo

KAMPALA, UGANDA: The Parliamentary Committee on Trade, Tourism, and Industry has directed Uganda National Bureau of Standards-UNBS and National Drug Authority-NDA, to test all energy and health drinks to ascertain the levels of adulteration and caffeine.

While meeting officials from UNBS, NDA, and Uganda Communications Commission-UCC on Friday, on non-conformity to standards of health and energy drinks, the Committee chaired by Mwine Mpaka, MP for Mbarara City South Division, called for a forensic investigation by UNBS and NDA that involves collecting samples of all the health and energy 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 kombucha drinks to be tested for their caffeine levels and if any is adulterated,” Mpaka said.

For purposes of impartiality, Mpaka said that the Committee will also take the samples to an independent internationally recognized 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 those of 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.

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“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.”

According to Dennis Mwesigwa, the senior inspector of drugs at NDA, the Authority recently collected and analyzed 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 analysis revealed that only one product -Rock Boom- out of the 11 products 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,” Mwesigwa told the committee.

Under Uganda Standard US 47:2011, where caffeine is used as a flavoring 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.

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He added that there was no detectable adulteration of aphrodisiacs that contain components that stimulate sexual desire like sildenafil, vardenafil and tadalafil in all the samples tested.

According to UNBS, there is no provision for caffeine limits in kombucha 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 kombucha.

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

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.

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