the act of introducing an unregistered drink into the Gambian market, to the
alleged use of expired ingredients in making another soft drink, the management
of Banjul Breweries have been rounded up by Police.
According to sources, the brewery’s Kanifing factory was sealed since Friday when this reporter visited there. Its general manager, dead of Productions and Country Sales manager were all invited to the Kairaba Police for, where a task force was instituted to look into reported trade malpractices and health hazards from their products.
The task force comprises the Gambia Food Safety Authority, the Police and the State Intelligence Services (SIS). “They have been tasked to look into the information gathered by Police Intelligence Unit about the said malpractice,” assistant Police PRO confirmed over the weekend.
“Since 15th November, the ingredient used in making the Youki Orange drink has been an expired one,” an official of the company, who spoke on the condition of anonymity confirmed when contacted on Friday.
The said official and public health authorities fear that such an ingredient would have health implications for the country if allowed to go into market. Hence the matter was reported to the Police for action.
Assistant Police PRO could not give details as investigations are only preliminary for now.
Banjul Breweries, now owned and operated by the Castel Group, a top French beverages company operating in over 60 countries throughout the world, and involved in the beer and soft drinks’ sector in Africa, also introduced a new drink whose trademark was not registered in The Gambia.
Arome Tropical Emulsion
Cocktail de Fruits, described as a “unique fruit-based product” that has been consumed in The Gambia for about 25 years, is the new drink substituted by Julbrew. It is called Arome Tropical Emulsion but has not been registered in The Gambia.
However, the drink was bottled in and sold in “natural cocktail drink” bottles with the cocktail labels when the contained drink itself was different.
“The taste of the drink has changed from natural fruit taste to something completely different,” a consumer, Nyima Fatty, who went out with friends to celebrate her birthday at a restaurant on Wednesday also complained that the cocktail tastes different.
“The taste was artificial as ingredients were chemical based,” a laboratory technician said.
“This is unfair. It is denying Gambians from drinking natural fruit cocktail,” a Gambian employee at Julbrew lamented, adding that other issues the factory could not be reported because the staff fear losing their jobs.
“Production cost of the original fruit drink is too high, compared to the new drink recently introduced its place,” the source said.
“They could be driven by the need to maximise profits as the cost of registering a new trademark here in Banjul. The costs of promotions, launch, and marketing of new products costs companies millions,” a business analyst, who wishes to remain anonymous opined.
Believed to be have been bottled on the 15th November, the current Youki Orange drink is also alleged to be made from expired ingredient that was imported from Senegal.
The storekeeper of the company, in a statement to the police, reportedly denied being in custody of the said ingredient that serves as an additive to the orange drink.
In his bid to hide its expiry information from the staff and especially the store keeper, the company’s production manager, George Diatta, a Senegalese himself, allegedly stored the expired ingredient’s container at his office toilet.
The container was described as a 20-liter gallon that contains a syrup essence, six litters of which is usually mixed into the tank to produce the drink.
At the time of going to press, Mr. Diatta was not available for comments. He, however, gave a statement to the police on Friday, along with the company’s managing director, French man, Eric Gilson.
The two are purportedly responsible of the trade malpractice that is risking the health of the consumer population and also robbing the country of revenue from trade mark registration, an insider at the company said.
Meanwhile, George Jatta, when contacted over the weekend was not available for comments.
Similar efforts made to solicit comments from the company’s country sales manager, Mr. Borry Darboe went futile.
According to people familiar with the matter, sales representatives who distributed products around town also wrote a report, forwarding complaints from the consumers and wholesalers to the management. However, that report sat on Mr. Darboe’s desk and gathered dust without reaching management, insiders said over the weekend.
The same sales reps also invited the production manager to a meeting and discussed these issues of the unregistered Aroma Tropical Emulsion drink bottled in the Fruit Cocktail bottle with the wrong label for distribution. But no action was taken.
At the time of going to the press, the passports of both the Julbrew production manager Mr. Diatta and managing director, Eric Gilson, are in custody of the police pending investigations.