A director at the Agric Extension of Oyo State Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mrs. Ibukunoluwa Iroko, has advised against adding chemicals to food products to act as preservatives. She says that these chemicals have long-term health consequences. She explained that some people use chemicals to act as preservatives and to prevent microorganisms from growing in food. Sometimes, these chemicals could be used against pest and its effects on food. Pests such as weevils, spiders, worms, or even tiny microorganisms that attack food crops.
She says that some of the chemicals being used include hypo, detergents, and potash to aid the texture, look, and taste of the food. Sometimes, it could be to ease the food processing. “Food vendors are mixing chemicals like hypo, various types of detergent and potash with cassava during the processing to soften and ferment the cassava. These chemicals are added to foods to enhance texture, color, taste, or chemical preservatives, as well as the appearance and operation of processors,” she said.
Nigeria lacks adequate storage facilities for food crops.
In Nigeria, preserving food is either a very hard task or quite expensive, or both. There are no adequate storage facilities for food products especially farm produce such as grains, beans, yam, etc. Where the facilities are available and accessible, they are expensive. So, a businessperson who only wants to make a profit will find alternative means of preserving the products. There is also an appeal that the texture, taste, and appearance of the products become enhanced.
Food processing is also another aspect of agriculture in Nigeria which is unregulated and where people often cut corners. Processing food the traditional way is sometimes unprofitable and difficult to maintain. Therefore, some people ease the process by using these chemicals. Using chemicals is not the only way people cut corners in this area; another concerning aspect is the area of hygiene. While poor hygiene may not have deadly effects like harmful chemicals, it could lead to various diseases, too, such as Lassa fever.
Organic agriculture is taxing and much harder to adhere to.
Organic agriculture involves planting crops, harvesting them, and processing them into food without employing chemicals. During planting, organic agriculture does not use chemicals such as fertilizer, pesticides, etc. While processing, preservatives and others chemicals that can affect one’s health are not used. Because of the effort involved, it is unfit for commercial adoption in this present times. For instance, instead of using pesticides and fertilizers, organic agriculture prefers removing weeds and unwanted plants, and using manure as fertilizer.
This method is taxing and usually unprofitable. If it is to be adopted for commercial purposes, more laborers will be needed as well as more farm materials such as net barricades to keep pests out. As much as farmers now prefer genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and chemical fertilizers, food processor employ chemicals to ease the processing of food too. This happens in the processing of rice, beans, cassava, maize, and other products. For example, it is not uncommon for beans that have added chemicals to be physically and texturally appealing and to last longer in storage.
These chemicals have been linked to various diseases.
Mrs. Iroko, says that the human body cannot digest these chemicals and that they have been linked to various kinds of diseases including kidney disease and cancer. These effects may not show immediately, but the chemicals in the body will cause them in the long run. Mrs. Iroko, called on food regulatory agencies in Nigeria to implement and enforce food safety policies to protect Nigerians. The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) is the government agency tasked with such responsibilities.