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Botswana accepts South Africa’s bottled water standard

Botswana accepts South Africa’s bottled water standard

Botswana, an important trading partner for local companies, has through the Botswana Bureau of Standards (BOBS) agreed to partner with the South African National Bottled Water Association (SANBWA) to minimise duplication pertaining to the importation of local bottled water brands into that country.

This is a huge vote of confidence in SANBWA’s Bottled Water Standard and operation. In addition, by eliminating additional testing and certification costs of those bottlers looking to export to Botswana, it should have a marked impact on their profitability and help their efforts to grow their market share in that country.

In terms of a service level agreement concluded by SANBWA and BOBS, SANBWA members in good standing will not need to undergo any additional audits or comply with any other requirements in order to export their products to Botswana.

The agreement came about late last year after SANBWA shared its Bottled Water Standard with the BOBS, and a BOBS principle scientist for compulsory standards visited South Africa to witness a SANBWA audit and benchmark it against Botswana’s own procedures.

It was drafted in line with the compulsory standards defined in BOS 143:2011 and BOS 262:2011, and developed following the process outlined in the Standards Act of 1995. The agreement also requires that it be read in conjunction with Botswana’s existing legislation and standards defining the quality of the bottled water intended for human consumption.

Commenting on the agreement, SANBWA CEO Charlotte Metcalf, welcomed it, saying that it not only confirmed the high global standard set by SANBWA for the local bottled water industry, but that it would assist SANBWA members do business in Botswana and other countries on the continent.

“This arrangement is offered as an alternative to Botswana’s requirements for import. This means that bottlers who are not SANBWA members still have access to that market,” she said.

She said that, in terms of the agreement, SANBWA will evaluate bottled water produced in South Africa by its members, communicate incidents of non-compliance to producers on behalf of BOBS, and share this information with BOBS as well as industry and technical developments.

To be allowed to take South African bottled waters into Botswana, SANBWA members need to present to BOBS a membership certificate, a SANBWA audit report and the results of the monthly microbiological surveillance conducted by SANBWA. BOBS will then issue the producer a Note of Recognition, which will give them access to the market.

BOBS will also from time-to-time accompany the SANBWA appointed auditors on SANBWA audits. It will also be required to inform SANBWA of any revisions to the Botswana Standards on bottled water.

Membership of SANBWA is voluntary but strictly controlled, and comprises bottlers of all classes of bottled water (natural, defined by origin and prepared). Their primary concern is the health, safety and pleasure of their consumers and therefore they willingly conform to the extremely stringent safety and quality measures contained in the SANBWA Bottled Water Standard.

The third version of this now 92-page document was published in May 2010 by SANBWA in consultation with NSF International, a global testing and certification company, and its affiliate on the African continent.

The technical advisory committee contributing to the development of the Standard included representatives from South Africa’s Department of Health, industry players and both local and international SANBWA experts.

The Standard reflects the current best practices and legislation for bottling water of all types in South Africa. It was always intended to be a pragmatic and useful document, and comparable to the main food and beverage standards in major markets around the world. Indeed, it has been benchmarked favourably against the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) as including all the relevant control points of global standards such as BRC, IFS, ISO22000, SANS 10330, SANS 1049 and the NSF Beverage standards’.

A single standard covering legal, hygiene, food safety and quality, and environmental requirements, the SANBWA Bottled Water Standard:

  • · ensures legal compliance
  • · is fully auditable so that a single audit can ensure that all legal and food safety requirements have been met thereby protecting the bottler and enabling it to prove due diligence
  • · helps bottlers identify the areas where they still need to improve
  • · assists retailers and consumers to select suppliers of safe bottled water.

Every year, SANBWA’s third party auditors audits members to ensure that their source, bottling facility, final product and every aspect of their bottling process adheres to SANBWA’s stringent standards. SANBWA also randomly samples member products from the shelves on a monthly basis and has them tested for 
harmful agents.

In addition to quality, SANBWA and its members are staunchly committed to environmental stewardship. Members are required to comply with the association’s environmental vision, which includes many measures to ensure source sustainability and protection, water usage minimisation, energy efficiency, solid waste minimisation, and supporting post consumer recycling initiatives.

Less than 15% of bottled water in South Africa starts as tap water; over 85% is from renewable underground sources and sources that would otherwise go untapped; that is over 85% is either natural water or water defined by origin.
According to BMi, the bottled water market experienced a boom between 2004 and 2010 with growth of 20.7%. However, between 2010 and 2011, the rate of growth slowed to 2.2%. The industry also employs about 1 800 people. Its turnover plus employee base make it a fairly significant contributor to the economy.

Bottled water doesn’t compete against tap water. Instead, it is a natural and healthy alternative to other bottled beverages including hot (teas, coffees, chocolates and chais) and cold (cold drinks, fruit juices, energy drinks and 
alcoholic beverages). BMi research puts the industry’s size at only 1.4% of the total beverage industry, thus it is a very small player in terms of the beverage industry as a whole.

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