Professor Mojisola Adeyeye, Director of the National Food and Drug Administration (NAFDAC), warned Nigerians not to add chemicals and additives to food and beverages to enhance the taste, and emphasized that this practice may lead to serious illness and even death.
Adeyeye in a statement signed by its Resident Media Adviser Sayo Akintola on Sunday and made available to journalists in Abuja stated that the the agency will spare no effort to ensure that only safe food and other regulated products are edible on the market and used by Nigerians.
She made the announcement in the context of the recent Kano incident. According to reports, three people were killed in the Kano incident as a result of eating dangerous chemicals used as additives. At the same time, flavored beverages are provided for consumers who are not aware of the ancient city.
She, however disclosed that a preliminary result of the Agency’s investigation was submitted to the Kano State governor, Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje during her two-day visit to the state on an on-the-spot assessment of the incident.
Adeyeye noted with regret that three fatalities were recorded with many people having their health compromised. ‘’Even if just one person died; that will be one too many’’, she said, stressing that it’s heart-warming to note that all the merchants of the deadly chemicals and additives have been apprehended while further investigation continues.
According to her, the importance of food cannot be over-emphasized. She however, noted that ‘’but when dangerous foreign elements find their way into our foods and water, then it becomes poisonous rather than being nutritious’’.
She pointed out that food contamination and poisoning could occur through consuming expired food. The NAFDAC boss added that food poisoning could also occur by preparing food with poorly sourced water and putting cooked food on the shelf for several days or months: or in the refrigerator for too long amongst others.
‘’ We are very particular about food additives, about the temperature at which a food can be kept, or about the expiration date of food. If all of these are violated, then there could be food poisoning’’. She said, adding, whether it’s food or water, adding chemicals and other substances either to enhance the food or change its form can be dangerous especially when we can’t verify the source and content of such additives.
Adeyeye disclosed that NAFDAC is now working assiduously in partnership with the Kano State government with a view to preventing the reoccurrence of the March 11, 2021 incident. She said that her Agency will be working with Kano State Task force under the Federal Task Force on Counterfeit and Fake Drugs and Unwholesome Processed Foods, which is domiciled in NAFDAC, and the Nigeria Consumers Protection Agency in Kano.
She explained that shortly after the news about the Kano incident was received by NAFDAC, six directorates of the Agency immediately swung into action to unravel the mystery behind the sad event. She added that internal checks revealed that only two of the five flavoured drinks identified in the incidence were registered by NAFDAC while three were not on the Agency’s data base.
She said samples of the chemicals and additives that were added while preparing the flavoured drinks for consumption were collected and taken to NAFDAC’s laboratory in Kaduna for testing. She said further testing was conducted at the Agency’s central laboratory in Lagos for confirmation.
‘’We have five flavoured drinks. Two were registered while three were not. Any food that is unregistered are not guaranteed by NAFDAC and could be is unwholesome. It’s fake food. It was most likely smuggled into the country, she further explained, stressing that, ‘’we tested all the food samples, and there was E-Coli bacteria in some. One would wonder how E-Coli bacteria would get into powder. It depends on the storage. If it’s stored in a very humid condition, and expired, the packaging probably was getting compromised, you can get bacteria into dry powdered medium. But ordinarily it shouldn’t happen’’, she said.
Adeyeye further explained that they also brought an additive that was kept in transparent freezer bag. There was another unknown chemical that was sold as food additive. This chemical for 25KG bag was supposed to be sold for N30,000. One of the merchants got it for N3,000 and sold it to another merchant for N7,000. The merchant that got it for N7,000 thought it was Dantsami (Hausa for “something sour”) that they normally use and tasted it to confirm that truly it was Dantsami. Dantsami is what is used in some parts of northern Nigeria to make drinks sour. 25KG kilo bag of the unknown chemical was also sent to the Agency’s laboratory in Kaduna for testing.
The NAFDAC boss disclosed that having tested the additive chemical, it was discovered to be HYROXYLAMINE. ‘’It’s a poison. Sometimes it’s used for terrorism. This is very sad because it involved people dying’’.
She said that the Pharmacovigilance directorate of the Agency sent an alert to all its 36 State offices of NAFDAC and the FCT to mount surveillance on the unregistered products and mop them up.
She emphasized that the chemical did not pass through NAFDAC as there are no records at the Chemical Evaluation and Research Directorate to suggest that permission was given to anyone to import the chemical into the country while internal checks at the Ports Inspection Directorate revealed that the chemical was not imported through the ports.
‘’Definitely, it was smuggled into the country’’, she said, noting that before any chemical can be legally imported into Nigeria, full authorization and permit must be obtained from NAFDAC to ensure that no dangerous chemicals are brought into the country and used to the detriment of the Nigerian people.
‘’For safety and security concerns, NAFDAC does end-to-end monitoring for all chemicals. We request for distribution and utilization patterns before we give importers permits to import chemicals. We must know who you have sold the chemicals to in your report. These are the things you must clarify to us before we give approval for permit to clear chemical consignments.’’
The NAFDAC DG opined that Nigerians have a critical role to play to ensure that they don’t fall victims to food poisoning, noting with dismay that despite all the measures being put in place by NAFDAC to ensure safe foods, chemicals and other regulated products, there are those who still find ways to smuggle these chemicals into the country.
‘’The public should know that they don’t have to add chemicals to food except table salt. Chemicals kill very fast because there is no prescribed amount to use.’’, she said, stressing that ‘’to use chemical to make a food or drink sour, you may never know what you are adding’’.
She listed the regulated additives as Sugar, Saccharin, and sweetening, adding that ‘’there is prescribed amount to put. Sugar for drinks, Saccharin for drinks and sweetening. These are inside the food and not something you sprinkle on the food like what happened in Kano’’