We live on a continent where we take a lot for granted and we either fail or refuse to realise or accept that the problems we pretend do not exist never go away. Examples of such problems are the falling quality of food sold at street-side vendor, in chop bars and even in hotels, of manufactures food and beverage, and of domestic plastic and metallic items; almost all items, in fact. What makes the problem worse is the existence of state agencies, Standards Board Authority (SBA) and Food and Drugs Authority, both of which employ large staff paid well with the tax payers’ sweat to check falling standards and value.
That raises many questions, say why are the qualities of almost all goods and services falling over the last two to three decades? Why are qualities falling while prices are rising? Why are qualities falling in a way that is detrimental to the consumer, especially the quality of food, both cooked and manufactured? Why are the qualities falling when there are state agencies taxed with making sure qualities are maintained and even improved?
Few examples will do.
About a week ago Ti-Kelenkelen observed that a metal bucket his sister bought for his nephew to take to SHS about three years ago has the inside all covered with rust. Just to be sure, he asked if it is the same bucket, and she replied yes. Ti-Kelenkelen then recalled how long a 32-inch bucket the same sister was using lasted, more than 12 years, before the first signs of rust began to appear in it. Another set of items that shows similar signs of fallen quality are domestic plastic products. Time was when one could use a plastic bucket for decades, even if it fell several times. Now, buy a plastic bucket and in few months or even weeks the metal handle pulls out through the plastic or the plastic part holding the handles comes off with it; that is, when one uses it to carry water. If the bucket contains water when the handle lever breaks, the bucket hits the ground and splits.
The greater challenge is with the falling quality of what goes into our body – food, drinks and medicine. Anyone old enough to know the taste of Milo twenty or more years ago will testify that today’s Milo is low grade. The beverage of old tasted real – richer in Ghana’s cocoa and milk and had an aroma that hot water could send over the wall into the neighbour’s house. Today’s beverage tastes more like artificial cocoa roughed up with sugar and chemical sweeteners, and sometimes, while drinking it you are tempted to wonder if you are indeed drinking that beverage since the aroma is almost non-existent. Unfortunately, it is so with most other beverages – Ovaltine, Hollicks, etc., and countless milk products on the market.
Equally bad is food sold at the vendor, in chop bars, fast food joints and even in some hotels. Of course, a lot of our cooked food sellers still make good food. But the majority makes very bad food. Pay attention when tasting such food and what your tongue gets, largely, is too much salt pepper or chemical food sweeteners; and these are usually hiding something. Years ago, investigative journalist, Anas Arimeyaw Anas, caught (on video) a biscuit maker using gogomi-infested flour, but who can vouch that same or similar negativity is not going on, right now.
The least said about some medicines, both indigenous and imported, the better.
A host of issues, decades-old, are responsible for the fore-going, such as falling (real) indices of the economy, falling value of the cedi, rising prices of raw materials that compel manufacturers to cut corners. In the case of cooked food, too much agro-chemical makes planted food grow quickly, but these are of low quality – increasingly tasteless items that rot quickly. But these are not the focus of this article.
Quality and Standards
These cases present problems. Domestic items do not last, and a household spends money that could have been useful elsewhere to replace the same item. With food, manufactured or cooked, the challenge is the rising artificial chemical/spice content, which increases the chances of diseases, especially the non-communicables, such as diabetes, liver and kidney problems and heart ailments. Medicines intended to cure the sick introduces another disease.
Ti-Kelenkelen recalls Oheneba on his health programme (NET-2 TV) reading from books by western medical doctors who explain a critical and historical point. The doctors said when Africans used to eat our own indigenous foods we did not have the non-communicable diseases, which we now have simply because we have adopted western foods. Yet, the problem, as Ti-Kelenkelen sees it, is not the adoption of western foods per se, but the blind borrowing – not using indigenous and gained knowledge to pick and choose what is healthy from among the lot we are borrowing from. Yes, we have always had communicable diseases, but in our blind borrowing from other cultures, we have added the set of communicable diseases.
All these have (for Africa) vast implications in areas of cost and standard of living, quality of human resources, health budget and productivity. Incidentally, it is to fight those effects to lower the impact of those implications that Ghana set up the SBA and the FDA. Yet there are low-quality and bad products on the market, in stores and on the streets. Anytime a media house conducts investigation and publishes or broadcasts information on a bad product, say alcoholic beverage, the SBA and FDA jump up quickly and pretend to be working. Yet further checks, usually, do reveal that the SBA or FDA gave prior approval to the product.
Watching television these days, one cannot miss commercials ending with the words “This advert has been vetted and approved by the FDA”. However, content of even some adverts is a problem – e.g., one wonders about the relationship between the images and the advertised product. That is worse on billboards; where some, advertising say paint, sport sexually suggestive images.
When people complain in media reports, articles, interviews and phone-ins, the SBA and FDA always complain of inadequate staff and lack of logistics. But, serbe, that is the lazy person’s or people’s response. It is also the bribe collectors’ response, for his or her corruption is why the problem remains in the first place. National problems are meant to be solved, not courted and pampered. And the good side of bureaucracy is that if a set of workers do not do their job, there are higher officials who must call them to order. The day we start solving our problems is the day we commence developing. China has shown the way.
“Why are the qualities falling when there are state agencies taxed with making sure qualities are maintained and even improved?”
“Anas Arimeyaw Anas caught (on video) a biscuit maker using gogomi-infested flour, but who can vouch that same or similar negativity is not going on, right now.”
“Yes, we have always had communicable diseases, but in our blind borrowing from other cultures, we have added the set of communicable diseases.”
Ti-Kelenkelen by Yirenkyi Lamptey