Sobo squash to return on Malawi market as MBS lifts ban on tartrazine

Malawi Bureau of Standards (MBS) has lifted the ban on the use of food additive tartrazine that was being used by Castel Malawi in the production of the most popular drink SOBO Orange Squash that was pulled off the market.

Sobo drink

When it was discovered last year that Castel was using tartrazine additive in the production of SOBO Orange Squash, MBS ordered the company to stop the practice, which Castel complied though it explained that use of tartrazine is not altogether banned worldwide.

Then in March, MBS further ordered Castel to withdraw all Sobo Orange Squash from the market after MBS had done laboratory tests on the product, following queries from the public that it was showing some suspension of sediments.

The public who had consumed the SOBO drink had complained that they were affected with some stomach upsets and that after a while of storage it had started to show signs of sedimentation and fermentation — a process that converts sugar to acids, gases or alcohol.

It has taken a year for MBS to investigate worldwide practice on the use of additive tartrazine, more so after concerned food manufacturers, importers and distributors themselves asked the regulator to reconsider its decision,  noting that tartrazine is permitted for use in beverages in some countries.

A  statement from MBS says it based its first order for Castel to stop using tartrazine based on MS 237:2008, Food Additives – General Standard, which is based on an international standard developed by the Food & Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and World Health Organisation (WHO) Codex Alimentarius Commission.

The standard provides a list of permitted food additives and the limits of their use in food, covering the following functional classes, among others; acidity regulators, anticaking agents, antioxidants, carbonating agents, colourants, colour retention agents, emulsifiers, flavor enhancers, flour treatment agents, foaming agents, packaging gases, preservatives, raising agents, stabilizers, sweeteners, thickeners.

Tartrazine falls under the functional class ‘colourants’ but based on the Malawi Standard MS 237, the MBS in 2018 banned its use in beverages because the standard did not permit its use.

MBS says: “The standard at the time only allowed the use of tartrazine in the following categories of foods:

  • Flavoured fluid milk drinks
  • Smoked, dried, fermented, and/or salted fish and fish products, including mollusks, crustaceans, and echinoderms
  • Fully preserved, including canned or fermented fish and fish products, including mollusks, crustaceans, and echinoderms; and
  • Soups and broths

MBS said  it  received a request from affected stakeholders for to reconsider its decision of banning the use of tartrazine in beverages, noting that tartrazine is permitted for use in beverages in some countries.”

“As part of our efforts to facilitate the development of Malawi standards, we gathered information on the use of tartrazine in beverages and other foods. The information gathered further indicated that while tartrazine may cause allergic reactions among asthmatics and aspirin intolerant people, it does not pose a significant health hazard.

“Examples of effects in people who consume a food containing the food additive include urticaria (allergic skin rash), rhinitis (runny nose), asthma and hyperactivity in children,” said the bureau.

It was further noted that countries that permit the use of tartrazine require that where tartrazine has been used in food, the expression ‘contains tartrazine’ should be included on the label, “to ensure that those that may be affected by it should refrain from consuming foods that contain this food additive.”

MBS further says after gathering information, it convened a technical committee meeting on alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages on 4th October 2019, where it was recommended to adopt the provision to permit the use of tartrazine in some products covered by some Malawi standards based on the limits set by the European Union Registration (94/36/EC).

Consequently, MBS says it has now has lifted the ban on use of food additive tartrazine in beverages such as squashes, cordials and other flavoured drinks with immediate effect.

“MBS assures the General public that it will continue to monitor compliance do all relevant products on the market against the requirements of the applicable mandatory Malawi Standards,” says the statement.

Castel’s spokesperson Titha Mbilizi acknowledged that MBS had furnished them with the lifting of the ban statement.

“As a company producing beverages, the reversal of this ban is a positive development,” Mbilizi told Nyasa Times.

Meanwhile, the public is excited with this lifting of the ban on tartrazine, hoping that Castel will now start production of the SOBO Squash, which the public has missed since May this year.

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Ochewa Dala
Guest
Ochewa Dala

Southern Bottlers has been producing the same SOBO without Tartrazine. The issue is Castel has failed us…and had lowered standards in almost all products. How can SOBO develop sediments??? Castel SOBO will not enjoy the same international recognition like the former

Dengu
Guest
Dengu

Sobo rots teeth and helps in the development of type 2 diabetes. Limit consumption for the sake of health.

John Chibisa
Guest

Nawonsotu a MBS!! Today we have effected a ban after sometimes, we have lifted the BAN….. Bwanji kodi osakhala FIRM on what you know and do????

Tim
Guest
Tim

Our poor country….look how some decisions affect the economy. Was it necessary to ban sobo…do we know this word called arbitration..yes I missed sobo but look how Malawi’s economy has lost because of this selfish decision….the foreign currency we have lost importing mazoe…it seems no one’s care about balancing of payment…we have very few products we export and sobo is one major products…at the end…it’s not castel who have lost but Malawi

Munthu Wankulu
Guest
Munthu Wankulu

And I read on Mazoe bottle that it contains tartrazine too.

Mulopwana
Guest

What. We ban SOBO for containing tartrazine and we allow inport of Mazoe which contains tartrazine. SHAME.

Rhaaaaa!
Guest
Rhaaaaa!

And the name itself is as ugly as tartrazine. Mazoe? Ngati dzina la toilet cleaner zoona?

mundu
Guest
mundu

Yes…very bad stuff for you. Do not give your kids this stuff. It is bad for health, teeth and longevity. Drink real orange juice from oranges, pineapples or anything but this. Your economy is not worth your health…besides it is the rich who benefit from this so-called foreign exchange not the avg Malawian