The National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has warned Nigerians against adding chemicals and additives to food and drinks to enhance taste, stressing that such practices could result in severe illness and even death.
The Director General of NAFDAC, Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye, in a statement signed by its Resident Media Consultant, Sayo Akintola, on Sunday, said the Agency would stop at nothing to ensure that only safe food and other regulated products are available in the market for consumption and use by Nigerians.
She made this known while speaking against the backdrop of the recent Kano incident where three people reportedly died as a result of their consumption of dangerous chemicals used as additives. while serving a flavored drink to unsuspecting consumers in the ancient city.
She disclosed that a preliminary result of the agency’s investigation was submitted to the Kano State governor, Dr. Abdullahi Ganduje, during her two-day visit to the state on an on-the-spot assessment of the incident.
The NAFDAC boss lamented that three fatalities were recorded with many people having their health compromised, stressing that “even if just one person died that will be one too many.”
She hinted 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 noting, however, 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. The NAFDAC boss added that food poisoning could also occur through consumption of expired food or 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.
Adeyeye disclosed that NAFDAC was now collaborating 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 further disclosed that 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.
The NAFDAC boss expatiated: ‘’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”, Adeyeye added.
The NAFDAC boss stressed 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.
She clarified: ‘’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’’, the NAFDAC boss added.