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BSJ develops standards for ‘bag drink’ production

Published:Friday | May 1, 2015 | 5:17 PMTameka Gordon
File A toddler is fed 'bag juice' on the streets of Kingston. The Bureau of Standrards is attempting to standardise the product, which is often produced without labelling by unregistered businesses.

Bureau of Standards Jamaica (BSJ) has developed standards for the production of 'bagged drinks', which over the years have become a hot sell for drink manufacturers but are largely produced under conditions that are unmonitored.

Bag drinks or bag juice, as they are called, have been a common, and cheap, refreshment for students who purchase from vendors near their schools or sellers on the street.

A 'bagged drinks' industry has sprung up around the demand, with formal manufacturers also entering the market.

It's largely to protect the student, the BSJ said, that it decided to tackle food safety and labelling standards for the popular produce. It will also facilitate its regulation.

The BSJ said there are over 40 manufacturers of bag drinks locally, but estimates that there are about 100 others who are unregistered and operate underground.

The JS 326:2015 or Jamaican Standard Specification for Bag Drinks was advertised in the press a few weeks ago following a Financial Gleaner report last September on the prevalence of 'bag water' products on the local market.

The BSJ says the new standards were "not specifically" intended to govern bagged water, but would be applicable "in that it would follow the same requirements in terms of hygienic and labelling requirements," according to manager of the Standards Development and Certification and Department," Stephen Farquharson.

"Bagged water is otherwise covered by the BSJ's general labelling requirements," Farquharson said.

"The development of this standard was initiated in response to numerous breaches which were found in the industry relating to unsafe manufacturing practices and inadequate labelling. It was undertaken as one of many efforts intended to regularise the operations of bag drink manufacturers," the BSJ said.

The standards are intended to put the bag drink industry on a "level playing field" with other boxed and bottled products for which there are existing standards, said the standards agency.

While the bag drink standard is intended to be compulsory, that aspect won't be enforced immediately, to allow manufacturers a window to implement changes needed to bring them into compliance, the BSJ said, while noting that JS 326:2015 also needs to be gazetted.