Crooks Smarter FAKE TOMATO SAUCE EXPOSITION IN DAR ES SALAAM LINGER <LI class=style64>TFDA, TBS investigating the ring <LI class=style64>Crooks near police headquarters Most chip joints in city affected By The Express Reporter, Dar es Salaam Crooks churning out fake tomato sauce in Dar es Salaam are still operating and untouched, exactly two weeks today since The Express revealed the shocking presence of an intricate ring of producers of counterfeit and unhygienic versions of the condiment. A fortnight ago this paper revealed the presence of an underground network of producers of fake tomato sauce in the city, working in unhygienic conditions and selling the products through a labyrinthine channel of agents to food outlets. Meanwhile, investigations have further revealed the clandestine business is wider than originally exposed, with the product widespread amongst almost all major legitimate tomato sauce brands on the market which are falling victim to the culprits. Investigations have shown that while the most common package is the unmarked bottle carrying about one litre, labels are put on for customers who want to sell them in their shops. But such retailers must be part of the ring: alternatively they have to be supplied through a chain of insider agents, while they remain aware that the product is fake. So far, neither the Tanzania Bureau of Standards nor the Tanzania Food and Drugs Authority has been able to crack down on the producers of the fake tomato sauce. The two authorities are already in possession of samples of the fake product, delivered to them by this paper on Monday. The letters which were used for the official dispatch of the samples were duly received, and duplicates stamped by each watchdog. TFDA Spokesperson Gaudensia Simwanza said last Friday: " TFDA is still investigating the existence of counterfeit tomato sauce, and once the producers are caught they will be brought to justice." She was responding to a question by this paper about why they had not taken action against the culprits. The TFDA PRO further said: " TFDA is still investigating the existence of fake tomato sauce but that doesn't mean it has failed the public. It will be appreciated if your office can share with TFDA any information that might lead this investigation to identify individuals behind the business." For their part, the TBS has yet to respond to questions by this paper. On when TFDA is going to take action against the fakers, the spokesperson said : " TFDA will take the necessary actions when the crooks are caught." According to the PRO, TFDA through its Post Marketing Surveillance Department surveys, investigates, inspects and collects intelligence information regarding the existence of substandard and/or counterfeit products on the market. Once individuals dealing with such businesses are caught, appropriate actions are taken against them as provided in Tanzania Food, Drugs and Cosmetics Act. Action taken includes court cases, closure of business premises and disposal of the products at the owner's cost. Cracking the ring will need the concerted efforts of both the TFDA and other law enforcement agencies, as the ring operates in the most secretive ways. Products are delivered through a chain of agents, the way drug cartels operate. As a rule, no person who is not an insider is given goods, even if it is the second time he is ordering, unless the customer is accompanied by an insider. Both the insider agent and the customer are then left at a point, while the goods are delivered. One of the tactics the cartel uses to avoid being caught is to sell in small quantities, mostly up to a dozen, such that while in transit, the cargo cannot be so conspicuously bulky as to attract the unwarranted attention of nosey-parkers, be they the police, TFDA or TBS. One of the underground ‘factories' is at Ubungo Maziwa, opposite the power generation plants, and adjacent to the notorious open-air garages which are under the High Tension power lines of the National Grid. Despite the culprits being so stealthy, the TFDA, is prepared to take swift action. Said the PRO: "Action will be taken according to section 34 (1-5) of Tanzania Food, Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 2003. The Act provides for, seizure, destruction of goods found unfit for human consumption, and for courts to take further action. Investigation has further revealed that the network operators have links with upcountry practitioners, mostly in Mwanza, Morogoro, Arusha and Moshi. Most of the producers, however, come from north eastern parts of Tanzania. Incidentally, it is from the north eastern parts of the country that most sellers of potato chips in Dar es Salaam and other major cities come from, which has made it easier for the counterfeits cartel to integrate production and supply of the product. Further investigations have revealed that the fake version is easily identifiable by its excessive sweetness, caused by the over use of artificial sweeteners to replace the taste of tomato. In addition, the fake tomato sauce, heavily loaded with food colouring, leaves the hands with a reddish-pink hue after washing. Fresh investigation has revealed that the fake tomato sauce has infiltrated the market, that there is fake tomato sauce given to unsuspecting patrons to spice their dish with at almost every joint where potato chips are sold in Dar es Salaam. As a result, because the chips vendors are supplied direct, respectable brands gather dust on shop and supermarket shelves. One of the points where you are sure to be served with the fake sauce in the city is a food outlet inside the compound of the St. Alban's Church in downtown Dar es Salaam, near the General Post Office. Popularly known as ‘container', the otherwise nameless joint is a popular lunch-time sanctuary, always teaming with patrons. In fact, one of the operators there is an expert in making fake tomato sauce. Apart from supplying their outlet, he can deliver goods to any ‘safe' customer on demand. But that is just the tip of the iceberg: the man can also attach any label a customer may need. The TFDA has however ruled out any fears that the workers of the authority may be shielding the producers of the fake tomato, an issue that was raised by this paper following an opinion survey in the city. Said Gaudensia the Spokesperson: " TFDA through its mission, which is to protect and promote public health by ensuring quality, safety and effectiveness of food, drugs, cosmetics and medical devices, has done a lot to protect the public, such as identification and removal of substandard and counterfeit food, drugs and medical devices from the market."