Zimbabweans urged to beware of counterfeit and hazardous products


HARARE – Zimbabweans need to remain vigilant when shopping, as it has emerged the market is flooded with expired, counterfeit, and underweight products. These deceptive items not only shortchange consumers but also pose serious health risks. 

Zimbabweans consumers beware of counterfeit products

Here's what we have gathered about this worrying malaise:

Counterfeit alcohol

During the 2023 festive season, the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ) received numerous reports of fake alcoholic beverages masquerading as well-known brands. 

Shockingly, some of these counterfeits were produced in townships and residential homes, yet they bore identical labels to the genuine products. 

It is advisable for consumers to scrutinize product labels and avoid expired items to safeguard their well-being. But even this can be a strenuous exercise really.

It's always worth noting that the selling expired products is illegal under the Consumer Protection Act.

Inadequate resources for testing

While the CCZ conducts random laboratory tests on suspicious products, resource constraints limit their reach. 

The organization acknowledges the need for more frequent market checks and testing but faces limitations in resources. 

And it says efforts are underway to address this gap.

Underweight packages and the "slack fill" issue

Allegations have surfaced that certain retailers and manufacturers engage in deceptive practices by using "slack fill." 

This tactic involves packaging products with less content than advertised while maintaining the same price. 

The hope is that consumers won't notice the reduced portions. 

To investigate, The Sunday Mail Society purchased three 2kg packets of rice from a Harare retail outlet. 

Surprisingly, all three fell short of the stated weight, with the highest weighing 1.87kg and the lowest 1.69kg. 

Similarly, a maize meal brand advertised as 10kg was found to be 1kg lighter upon weighing.

Joint efforts to unearth unscrupulous practices

The Consumer Protection Commission (CPC), in collaboration with inspectors from the Trade Measures Department and the police’s license inspectorate, has been conducting joint operations. 

These efforts aim to expose unethical practices by manufacturers, retailers, and filling stations.

The authorities have taken note of consumers' concerns and instituted investigations regarding the sale of fake and expired products.

Harare provincial police spokesperson Inspector Luckmore Chakanza said they are currently involved in joint operations with relevant stakeholders to bring the culprits selling counterfeit and expired goods to book.

"As law enforcers, we are ready to take action against these criminals involved in the sale of fake and expired products. Some of the culprits are known in communities, which, therefore, calls for collective effort from consumers for us to effectively deal with this menace."

While retailers claim they sell products as received, some manufacturers accuse black market traders and unscrupulous retailers of tampering with goods before selling them to consumers.

The most affected products include soya mince, sugar, kapenta, maize meal, and rice. 

Amidst this backdrop, vigilance and awareness are crucial to protect consumers from hazardous and deceptive items in the market.

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