Harmony Agere and Shamiso Yikoniko

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Popular energy drink, Dragon, has been banned by the Health and Child Care Ministry as it violates the country’s health standards, and it should be removed from all shop shelves immediately.

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The popular energy drink, Dragon, has been banned by health officials as it does not conform to health standards

The popular energy drink, Dragon, has been banned by health officials as it does not conform to health standards

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It is also understood that Twizza, another non-alcoholic beverage, has been banned for the same reasons. However, details of Twizza’s fate are not yet as clear as those pertaining to Dragon.

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In a letter by the ministry’s Permanent Secretary, Dr Gerald Gwinji, to a provincial medical director and copied to the director of environment health services, it was said the drink violated Food and Food Standards Regulations.

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The letter — dated September 28, 2015 — also recommended that all Dragon Energy Drink 500ml cans be withdrawn from the shelves.

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Dragon Energy Drink is a beverage marketed as designed to maximise mental and physical performance and has been a hit since it was introduced on the local market early last year.

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Its claimed efficiency as well as its cheap pricing have made the drink popular in the country, with people either taking it on its own or as a mixer with alcoholic beverages, especially whiskies.

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According to investigations by the Health Ministry, its importation and distribution are in breach of health standards.

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“Analysis results of (Dragon) Energy Drink have shown that the drink is violating Statutory Instrument (SI) 265 of 2002,” reads the letter.

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According to the letter, the energy drink is in breach of Section 5(1)(e) of the instrument, which stipulates that where food contains any artificial flavouring or artificial colouring, the name of the artificial flavouring or artificial colouring should be clearly labelled.

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The ministry noted that this procedure was not followed in the packaging of the drink.

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“The artificial flavourings contained therein are not declared by names on the list of ingredients.”

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Dr Gwinji also highlighted in the letter that the words “The Power Is Yours” printed on the packaging of the product could not be substantiated, another violation of regulations.

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“The label bears claims, ‘The Power Is Yours’ and specifically designed to maximise mental and physical performance which cannot be substantiated,” reads the letter.

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The ingredient composition of the popular drink has also been questioned.

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“The energy drink violates Regulation 181 of 177 Section 4(7) in that the vitamins (niacin, B5 B6 and B12) on the list of ingredients imply that fortification ingredients were added without a written permission from the Secretary for Health and Child Care.”

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Dr Gwinji added in the letter that the energy drink did not follow proper importation procedures and it should, therefore, be removed from the shelves until the outstanding issues were addressed.

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“Proper import procedures were not followed before the energy drink was imported into the country. Basing on the above facts, may all the Dragon Energy Drink 500ml Ultra can be withdrawn from the shelves until proper import procedures and above violations are addressed,” says the letter.

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Director of Environmental Health Services Goldberg Tendai Mangwadu confirmed the developments, and said more imported products were under investigation.

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“Yes, I can confirm that the permanent secretary wrote the letter advising the country about the withdrawal of Dragon Energy Drink from the shelves,” he said.

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“We are also investigating more food stuff and there is also a similar letter concerning Twizza soft drink. A lot of food stuffs are entering the country through undesignated points.”

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Twizza has stormed the market on the back of being priced below other soft drinks.

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While prices for most energy drinks range between US$2 and US$5, the 500ml Dragon can sells for US$1. The popular drink is both imported and smuggled from neighbouring South Africa where the company which makes the drinks has set up distribution depots.

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While it was once reported that the beverage was neither approved nor tested locally, no lab analysis had been done before.

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However, the new information follows enquiries made by authorities.

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Government Analyst Laboratory principal laboratory technologist Mr Bernard Samendi, during a familiarisation tour by Health Minister Dr David Parirenyatwa last month, revealed they were testing most imported foodstuffs, including Dragon, which were finding their way into the country without being regulated.

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“Dragon Energy Drink is a fortified product which is supposed to get a licence before being dispatched to the public,” he said then.

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“By nature of its composition, it’s supposed to be approved for sale to the public but that hasn’t happened and the drink has flooded the market.”

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The Government Analyst Laboratory is mandated with ensuring the safety of the public health system through testing of food products (local or imported), water and postmortems of people who would have died under suspicious circumstances.

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Although Dragon has been condemned, it unclear what procedures will be taken if retailers fail to clear the product from shelves.

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Health Minister Dr Parirenyatwa said he was not aware of the letter.

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“In any case it is an administration matter and you should check with the permanent secretary,” he said.