The National Milling Company (NAMILCO) has found a shopkeeper in the mining town of Linden retailing counterfeit flour packaged in NAMILCO’s bags, the Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association (GMSA) said in a statement on Wednesday.
The discovery was made in April and the company immediately alerted the Food and Drug Analyst Department (GFDAD). NAMILCO simultaneously conducted a comprehensive analysis in its own laboratory and found that the flour was of a substantially poorer quality.
They discovered that even though the bags carried the NAMILCO brand name, Thunderbolt, they showed evidence of excessive handling. The top edges were frayed and the thread used to re-stitch the bags was of inferior quality. NAMILCO confirmed that the twine (not thread) the company uses is colour-coded and made of quality material consistent with international food hazard control standards. NAMILCO’S flour bags are also double-stitched.
In addition, the bags of flour sold by the counterfeiter weighed 39 kilograms instead of 45 kilograms contained in genuine Thunderbolt bags.
NAMILCO was alerted by complaints from residents of Linden – both bakers and householders – who informed the company that their flour-based products were not “cooking properly”. Their bread and pastries were “discoloured and heavy” and the taste was not acceptable.
NAMILCO conducted a search soon after receiving the reports and found one errant shopkeeper located on one of the town’s main thoroughfares. The GFDAD subsequently conducted its first investigation and confirmed NAMILCO’s complaint. The Department is expected to carry out a full investigation shortly.
In the meantime, the flour company is urging its customers, especially those in Linden, to purchase flour that is white and not grey, and to inspect the stitching on the 45 kg bags to confirm that white and coloured twine were used in the weaving to close the bags. NAMILCO’S CEO, Mr. Bert Sukhai pointed out that “consumers get robbed on weight, quality and price since most shopkeepers sell in pounds and equate 1 kg to 2 pounds instead of 2.2 pounds, and 2 kg as 4 pounds instead of 4.4 pounds. We have found (consumers) to be very forgiving in this regard”. He said that NAMILCO has been encouraging the Food and Drug Analyst Department to promote the health benefits of factory-packaged products, particularly milk, sugar, flour and other consumables that cannot be ‘washed’ before use.
The GMSA is urging the Department to conduct a nationwide campaign to determine whether consumers in other parts of Region Ten and indeed in other regions across Guyana have been sold counterfeit flour. The Association is concerned that the counterfeit flour which most likely were not subjected to quality tests, could pose a health hazard to unsuspecting consumers.
GMSA President Clinton Williams stated, “We will continue to do everything we possibly could to raise consumer awareness of sub-standard products that are flooding the local market, and the dangers these products pose to their health and well being. Our consumers have to understand that ‘cheaper’ is not necessarily better”.