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BSJ moves to clean up detergent trade

Published:Wednesday | June 29, 2016 | 12:00 AMChristopher Serju

Consumers will have to wait six months for an approved list of brands of detergent that meet the legal requirements for distribution and sale in Jamaica despite a finding by the Bureau of Standards Jamaica (BSJ) that at least a quarter of the 22 brands it tested failed to meet at least one of its key quality specifications.

This disclosure came during Wednesday's 'Awareness Session on Laundry Detergent' hosted in collaboration with the National Compliance and Regulatory Authority (NCRA) in the wake of what it described as "inconsistencies that can affect the quality and integrity of the products being sold to consumers".

The inconsistencies were detected in a round of national testing from February-April during which some of the 22 laundry detergent brands fell below the 18 per cent specification for the active cleaning agent as stipulated by the BSJ.

"There were six or seven of them that had 13, 14, 15, and 16 per cent by brands across this island," Tyrone Henry, standards compliance inspector with the NCRA admitted, adding that in at least one case, the phosphate content was 15 per cent, well in excess of the zero to five per cent recommendation for laundry detergent manufactured for sale in Jamaica.

Despite this, the regulatory agency has opted not to enforce sanctions, which include withdrawal from the shelves and detention of the contraband goods, with a maximum $3 million, or 12 months' imprisonment fine, upon summary conviction in a parish court.

The survey was triggered by concerns from people in the trade about the quality of the product hitting the market, Henry admitted.

"We were getting complaints from some of the importers and local manufacturers, so we went out there and we took 22 samples and then we had the products tested, individual assessments done, and we evaluated the results. What we found to be a major, major concern is the anionic factor. That's the cleaning factor that removes the dirt and the grime out of the clothing."

The standards-compliance inspector, who declined to name the delinquent brands, said it was "debatable" as to whether a less than 18 per cent anionic specification would affect the cleaning quality of the detergent.

The regulatory agency is embarking on a series of consultations over six months with importers, manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers of laundry detergents. This is with a view to increasing the general awareness among industry stakeholders and partners to ensure that laundry detergents used by consumers are safe and compliant with compulsory national standards and labelling regulations.