The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has apprehended the merchants of dangerous chemicals used in food and drinks supposedly to enhance taste that killed three people in Kano.
The three died after consuming adulterated flavoured drinks.
The agency’s Director-General, Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye, made this known in a statement issued by Mr Olusayo Akintola, the NAFDAC Resident Media Consultant on Sunday in Abuja.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that three people died in Kano in March after consuming flavoured drink, allegedly containing chemical additives.
The NAFDAC chief, therefore, warned against adding chemicals or additives to food and drinks to enhance taste, stressing that such practice could result in severe illness and even death.
Adeyeye said the agency would stop at nothing to ensure that only safe food and other regulated products were available in the market for consumption and use.
She said that the preliminary result of the agency’s investigation of the victims had been submitted to Gov. Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State during her two-day visit to the state to assess the incident.
She noted that “it was heartwarming that merchants of the deadly chemicals and additives had been apprehended while the further investigation continued.”
According to her, the importance of food cannot be overemphasised and that when dangerous foreign elements find their way into foods and water, it becomes poisonous rather than being nutritious.
She pointed out that food contamination and poisoning could occur through consuming expired food or preparing food with poorly sourced water and putting cooked food on the shelf for several days or months.
She said “we are very particular about food additives, about the temperature at which food can be kept, or about the expiration date of food. If all of these are violated, then there can be food poisoning.
“Whether it is 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.
“NAFDAC is now working assiduously in partnership with the Kano State Government with a view to preventing reoccurrence of the March 11 incident.”
Adeyeye added that the agency would be working with the Kano State Taskforce under the Federal Task Force on Counterfeit and Fake Drugs and Unwholesome Processed Foods, as well as the Consumers Protection Agency in Kano to check the menace.
She recalled that shortly after the news of the deaths was received, six directorates of the agency swung into action to unravel the mystery behind the sad event and found that only two of the five flavoured drinks identified in the incidence were registered by NAFDAC.
She said that the three others were not in the agency’s database.
She said that samples of the chemicals and additives that were added while preparing the flavoured drinks were then collected and taken to NAFDAC’s laboratory in Kaduna for testing and further testing was conducted at the agency’s central laboratory in Lagos for confirmation.
According to her, any food that is unregistered is not guaranteed by NAFDAC and that it can be unwholesome or fake food or that such food is smuggled into the country.
“We tested all the food samples and there were E-Coli bacteria in some; one would wonder how E-Coli bacteria would get into powder. It depends on the storage.
“If it is 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 said the Pharmacovigilance Directorate of the agency had sent an alert to all the 36 state offices of NAFDAC and the FCT to mount surveillance on unregistered products and mop them up.
According to her, before any chemical can be legally imported into Nigeria, full authorisation and permit must be obtained from NAFDAC to ensure that no dangerous chemicals are imported.
She noted that “NAFDAC does end-to-end monitoring for all chemicals and requests for distribution and utilisation patterns before giving importers permits to import chemicals.”
She said the agency also monitored the person such chemicals were being sold to in the seller’s report, adding that “all these must be clarified to NAFDAC before approval is given.”
She emphasised that the public had critical roles to play in informing the agency on suspicious products to avoid falling victims of food poisoning.
Adeyeye said that in spite of all the measures put in place by NAFDAC to ensure safe foods, chemicals and other regulated products, there were those who still found ways to smuggle these chemicals into the country.
She, therefore, cautioned that “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.
“To use chemical to make food or drink sour, you may never know what you are adding.
“The only regulated additives are Sugar, Saccharin and sweetening; and there are prescribed amount to put in food.
“These regulated products are inside the food and not something you sprinkle on the food like what happened in Kano,” she added.