A lot goes on behind the scenes in Egypt to ensure safe products for consumers, with Law 281/1994 stipulating prison sentences of up to 25 years and fines of up to LE60,000 for anyone found guilty of putting people’s health or well-being at risk through faulty products.
The Industrial Control Authority (ICA) can also inspect manufacturing premises and industrial products. Food products are inspected by the Egyptian Food Safety Authority.
According to head of the ICA Ibrahim Al-Menesterli, ICA inspectors routinely visit factories at the beginning and throughout each year. With 18 branches around the country, it has departments that cover the different industrial sectors.
Hala Seoudi, general manager of the ICA, said the ICA’s inspectors make sure products meet Egyptian standards and also look at production processes and the ways in which goods are stored and handled.
In cases where products differ from published standards, the ICA may send the manufacturer a written warning.
“If a violation needs referral to the public prosecution authorities, we issue an official complaint straight away to preserve the health and welfare of consumers. Samples of faulty products are also seized,” Seoudi said.
“Our objective is not to close the plant,” Al-Menesterli added. “We know the consequences of acting precipitately to close a factory and deprive people of their jobs.” However, if a case touches on consumer health, safety, or security, the ICA does not hesitate to demand that changes are instituted, and follow-up visits then take place to ensure that these are made.
In order for the ICA to do its job efficiently, “it needs an adequate number of inspectors, ongoing training, and equipment to check the safety and correct specifications of products,” Seoudi said.
However, one problem that the ICA faces is a shortage of inspectors. “We do not have enough inspector to replace those who leave, and our team is decreasing year by year,” Al-Menesterli commented.
The ICA reports any violations it finds to the authorities concerned, since it cannot sanction manufacturers or factory owners.
It also issues certificates of accreditation, and the law stipulates that manufacturers must consult the ICA before launching new ranges of products.
The ICA also has a consumer hotline that can be contacted in cases of suspected fraud.
For Al-Menesterli, citizen involvement is essential if the ICA is to do its job effectively. People should routinely ask maintenance companies for ICA-approved certificates, and consumers should not hesitate to call the ICA hotline if they are in doubt.
He said that the authority also tries to encourage informal factory owners to enter the formal economy, since the vast majority of those running businesses in the informal sector wish to formalise but are prevented from doing so by red tape.
“We try to raise awareness of the procedures, which are much simpler than many people think. We let factory owners know the advantages of state support, notably for exports, as the state can assist with representation at fairs abroad,” he added.
The ICA may also take action against informal factories, particularly if there are complaints against them if it suspects the law is being broken. It supports the work of environmental organisations, notably in cases where pollution regulations are being broken.
Among the government bodies the ICA works with are the ministries of the environment, health, the interior, planning, agriculture and industry.
It also works with the municipalities, the Central Agency for Administration, and the Industrial Safety and Occupational Health Department, helping them to set out specific inspection standards.
* A version of this article appears in print in the 4 October, 2018 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the headline: Monitoring for safer industry