By Tony Obiechina, Abuja
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 spoke against the backdrop of the recent Kano incident where three people who reportedly died following the consumption of dangerous chemicals used as additives while serving a flavored drink to unsuspecting consumers in the ancient city.
The DG 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.
Prof 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.
Stressing the importance of food in human existence, the DG however noted that ‘’but when dangerous foreign elements find their way into our foods and water, then it becomes poisonous rather than being nutritious’’, adding 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”.
Prof. 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 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.
‘’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’’