Thursday, June 9

Killer Tomato Paste: NAFDAC to blame- Stakeholders

Killer Tomato Paste: NAFDAC to blame- Stakeholders

No dangerous or injurious substance found- NAFDAC

Committee to check out Asian factories, others

The National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control, NAFDAC has been put on the spot over the importation of  fake, substandard and Cancer causing tomato paste into Nigeria.

The stakeholders like Erisco Foods Limited, Dangote and Savannah Foods, that spoke before the House of Representatives joint committees on Healthcare Services and Drugs and Narcotics investigating the issue said NAFDAC has a report on the hazardous tomato paste coming into the country from Asian Countries, but has failed to act on it.

The Chairman of Erisco Foods Limited, Chief Eric Umeofia while making his presentation accused NAFDAC point blank of colluding with foreign nationals to short- change Nigerians.

His words:  “You will also discover that despite the recommendation by the Food Safety Analysis and Nutrition Directorate of NAFDAC to mop up all the fake tomato pastes and immediately ban the importation of the offending products from China, NAFDAC under Paul Orrhi and the current Acting DG have refused to save Nigerians from the scourge of fake tomato pastes.

” Rather, Dr. Paul Orhii chose to threaten to close our factory down for exposing them and the current acting NAFDAC Director General followed his predecessor’s position by still supporting more substandard tomato paste importers to continue dump in Nigeria till we are closed down.

“Meanwhile all our attempts to duly inform Nigerians of the existence of this dangerous brands of tomato pastes were frustrated by NAFDAC as they refused to approve our advertisements even after we had adhered to all their suggested amendments.”

The representatives of Dangote Foods, Abdulkarim Kaita and Savannah Farms, Abdulahi all wondered why NAFDAC has failed to act on a report that was over a year old.

The report done by the Food Safety and Applied Nutrition Directorate and dated 10th February, 2015 states in part:

” Following  food safety concerns in the quality of branded tomato paste in retail packs imported from China and distributed and sold n Nigeria, an approval was given to conduct a pilot survey/ study of such ” tomato,paste products in retail packs (Tins/Sachets).

“Total number of samples purchased and submitted to laboratory, 330. Total number of samples released, 314. Total number found unsatisfactory due to tomato content, 286 ( 91.1 percent). Total number with satisfactory tomato, 28 (Total number awaiting release from laboratory, 16. Percentage unsatisfactory 8.9 percent.”

The Acting Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health, Mrs. Modupe Chukwuma deferred to NAFDAC to respond to the lawmakers queries and the allegations collusion.

However, NAFDAC represented by Prof. Samson Adebayo said it was wrong for the stakeholders to accuse it of collusion or non- action on the report.

Adebayo said: ” I wish to state that NAFDAC has not been compromised by any importer or group to destroy Nigeria as alleged by some groups.

The main goal of Erisco is to create a monopoly of imports from China as he also imports from China.

He said though the Agency has information that some substandard tomato paste were being imported, the agency tested “and as at then did not find anything injurious or dangerous. We never tested for carcinogenic substances, so where did Erisco get its information?”

The Bank of Industry, BoI was represented by Lolo Kadafa, Group head, food processing group and she stated that BOI as a finance institution supports in its entirety the curbing of the menace of importing of substandard goods into the country.

“The mandate of the institution is to support the industrialization of the country by providing funding of SMEs. The bank does not support the importation of finished goods.

“The bank does not have in its portfolio the companies that are importing from Asia, especially the one under investigation for substandard tomatoes paste.”

Earlier, the Chairman, House Committee on Health care services, Hon. Chike Okafor in his opening address said: “You will recall recently that media houses were awash with the publications about alleged importation of tomato pastes from some Asian countries by some importers, which were found to contain carcinogens and other contaminants that are hazardous and injurious to health and unfit for human consumption.

“The allegation created panic,mistrust, fear and is suspected to be responsible for high cost and scarcity of tomatoes in the country.”

He threatened that any of the company that fails to submit its product for testing, will be categorized as substandard.

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