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50% of consumer goods below standard

Sunday, April 02, 2006 * No checks conducted on ISO-certified companies * ISO certificates issued to ghost companies. By Mohammad Kamran ISLAMABAD: Adulteration, counterfeiting and substandard production of consumer goods is going unchecked in the country. Reportedly, over 50 percent of consumer goods in the market do not meet the quality standards set by the Pakistan Standard and Quality Control Authority (PSQCA). A report compiled by Pakistan Certification Bodies Association has revealed that manufacturers of about 65 consumer goods are required to get themselves registered with the PSQCA and have their products placed on the PSQCA Essential Items List. These goods include cooking oil, bottled water, beverages and biscuits. Manufacturers of these items are required to follow PSQCA standards and carry the PSQCA logo on the their products, mentioning batch number, date of manufacture and expiration. The report revealed that most of these manufacturers don’t have test laboratories, which is a mandatory requirement. PSQCA tested the quality of different consumer goods, being sold in the market, and found 70 percent of the samples of cooking oil and bottled water below standard. But none of the manufactures has yet been ‘punished’, according to the report. To maintain international standards, ISO certification was introduced, but it is not a product certification and only certifies the business practices of corporations. However, the new ISO-9001 standard requires all certified firms to comply with all applicable legal and regulatory requirements for products and services. There are over 500,000 ISO certified firms in the world, 320 of which are in Pakistan, and are regulated by Accreditation Service (UKAS) in the UK. These agencies have very strict guidelines on the use of ISO logos. To use the logo, each ISO certified company needs to be checked and audited by their certification agency at least once a year. Daily Times has learnt that in Pakistan, most of the companies are using ISO logos without annual checks. No independent agency such as PNAC, PSQCA or non-government organisation (NGO) checks the performance and credibility of ISO certifications in the country. Sources told Daily Times that out of the 3,000 companies claiming to be ISO-9001 certified, only 600 have valid certification. The rest were certified once but lost their license after failed to meet the standards. These companies are misusing the logo and exploiting consumers. A Pakistan National Accreditation Council official said that process of checking and penalising depended largely on public feedback. He appealed to consumers to lodge complaints against the sale of substandard goods. The report said that Sialkot had the worst kind of irregularities, where ISO-9001 certificates had been issued to companies that existed only on paper. A number of Sialkot firms that are producing medical products, have no proper infrastructure but still had ISO certifications.

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