Manufacturers are required by law to clearly indicate ingredients used to make various products to protect, inform and guide consumers. Failing to adhere to this requirement is punishable by law. 

In June, two flour millers were fined by the regulator, Competition Authority of Kenya (CAK), for misrepresenting the quality of ingredients in their brands.

The CAK fined Capwell Industries and Pembe Flour Mills – the producers of Soko and Pembe flour respectively – KSh600,000.  

The two millers were not in compliance with the relevant consumer information standards and labelling requirements. 

“Their actions amounted to making false and misleading representations to consumers of goods and services and are in contravention of Section 55(a)(i) of the Competition Act,” CAK Director-General Wang’ombe Kariuki said in a statement. 

“Further, Section 60(1) of the Competition Act makes it illegal for any business to fail to adhere to product information standards as prescribed by KEBS,” he added.

The Authority screened maize flour in the market where it focussed on; manufacturer’s claims, product labelling and display, ingredients/contents of products, display of disclaimers, among others. The exercise was carried out in major retail chains in Nairobi.

“The Authority will ensure continuous monitoring of the markets to ensure consumers are provided with the information necessary for them to gain the full benefit of the goods or services as provided for in Article 46 of the Constitution,” said Mr. Wang’ombe. 

While the Competition watchdog found that the majority of manufactures had complied with labelling standards, the move sets the tone for other local manufacturers to comply. 

A product label refers to the information attached to the packaging of a commodity and describes it in more detail. The label provides essential, often required, information about the product and its use.

Several enterprising Kenyans have established their own cottage industries to manufacture products for sale in order to complement their incomes. Everyone has at least one friend who bakes cakes, cookies, bread, or makes chocolate.  In the workplaces, we have people delivering packed lunches or selling some sort of juice.  

Whether dealing with edible or non-edible products such as lipstick, lotion, or jelly; you’re required by the law to properly list the ingredients in the product. 

“Depending on the product and the legal requirements of the country or industry self-regulation requirements, there is certain information that must be put on a product label. Food and medicine products, in particular, have fairly prescriptive labelling requirements,” said Geoff Fripp, an Adjunct Marketing lecturer at the University of Sydney.

In Kenya, the following is the bare minimum that manufacturers must include in their labelling.

KEBS requires that consumable products have the expiry date, ingredients and the weight. 

It is important to also indicate the manufacturer’s name and physical address, and if it is imported, the country of origin.  

Similar views are also stated on the Trade Mark East Africa website. 

“All labelling of packaging of imports shall include English and/or Kiswahili. Packaged goods (e.g. foodstuffs, chemicals, cosmetics, and similar) shall indicate the batch numbers and dates of expiration and/or date of production. All imports with a limited shelf life shall have more than seventy-five percent (75%) shelf life from the date of expected landing in Kenya,” Trade Mark East Africa says. 

“Manufacturers are required to indicate the date of manufacture and expiry on the labels of consumable products. Labelling for pharmaceutical products must include therapeutically active substances, inactive ingredients, name, and percentage of any bactericidal or bacteriostatic agent, expiry date, batch number, registration number of the product, and warnings or precautions, and the official name and business address of the manufacturer,” Trade Mark East Africa added.

Labelling is also important for export products. The Kenya Export Promotion and Branding Agency said: “Appropriate labels are just as important as point of sale packaging and protective packaging. Protective packaging, point of sale packaging, and labels are three vital elements in exporting that should be adapted to each selected foreign market in order to satisfy the needs of the various clients, as well as comply with international regulations.”