According to statistics from the National Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), over 200,000 Nigerians die of food poisoning every year. The agency said that this was happening as a result of unsafe, unscrupulous practices going on with food preparation and preservation in the country. The figure also included children under the age of five who die from food contamination. An Uber driver, Mr. Peter Jeremiah, was one of the victims. He ate one of the local dishes and went to sleep, only to wake up the next day, feeling a severe stomach upset, which followed with vomiting and stooling.
Jeremiah had already fainted before he got to Gbagada General Hospital. According to his wife, someone who was also rushed to the hospital with the same symptoms did not survive. The doctor diagnosed him of food poisoning. Jeremiah told news correspondents that he would have died if his wife had waited before bringing him to the hospital. Another victim, a business woman in Lagos by the name of Mrs. Grace Nnamdi, also nearly died as a result of the ailment but was fortunate to survive.
NAFDAC had uncovered a number of consumption problems in the country.
What NAFDAC has always warned the people about are dangers in consuming certain foods and pharmaceutical products while also working hand in gloves with stakeholders to eradicate the menace. Weeks ago, the agency had warned against the dangers of patronizing drug hawkers. The director-general of the agency referred to them as “merchants of death.” The rationale is that the drugs they hawk about are usually expired and harmful for consumption. These drugs cause liver and kidney damage as well as harm other organs of the body.
At the same workshop in Abuja, the DG also warned against consuming fruits which have been ripened using calcium carbide. The chemicals in the carbide act as a ripening agent, but the same ones are used in steelmaking and other manufacturing processes. Thus, those who eat such fruits are ingesting harmful materials which cause problems to the body in the long run. So, when people take them, they consume the nutrients alongside the chemicals which are not meant to go into the body. Fruit sellers do this because they needed to hasten the ripening cycle of these products and make a fast profit.
Farmers are culpable in the spread of food poisoning in Nigeria.
Eva Edwards, the director of Food Safety and Applied Nutrition at NAFDAC, revealed that foodborne diseases affect disproportionately the most vulnerable of the Nigerian society, including infants, young children, pregnant women, the elderly and immunocompromised people. She disclosed that many farmers and business owners also contribute to the issue by using agrochemicals such as sniper for storage and preservation of agricultural commodities such as grains (beans). This results in a negative health outcome for the consumers.
They use these “preservatives” to kill pests which would have significantly reduced the amount of stock they have. To prevent “wastage,” they apply these chemicals to kill the insects attacking the food products and wait an amount of time before they are sold. This is in the hope that the chemicals would have worn off and it would now be safe for consumption. Other unethical practices which Nigerians indulge in include: tendering of meat with paracetamol by food vendors, which can lead to liver and kidney failure; using formaldehyde to preserve fish; injecting poultry with hormones to conceal disease; harmful food coloring applied to fresh fruit to cover defects; adding sudan dyes to palm oil to give an attractive red colour; and adding sugar-based products to honey.
DG of NAFDAC launched campaign against these malpractices.
Director Edwards said that Nigerians have right to good safety, healthy and nutritious food. She urged Nigerians to report unsafe unethical practices to NAFDAC for necessary regulatory action. Meanwhile, the DG of NAFDAC, Prof. Moji Adeyeye, recently launched a campaign against drug hawking and ripening of fruits in Lagos to tackle the menace of food poisoning. She disclosed that consumption of fruits that have been ripened with harmful chemicals like calcium carbide may cause cancer, heart, kidney and liver failure.
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