Over a year ago now, the National Agency for Food, Drug
Administration and Control [NAFDAC] conducted a study of
tomato paste in retail packs imported from China and came out with a damning report that 91% of the analysed
samples were substandard and injurious to health.
Investigation by The Nation revealed that nothing concrete or impactful had been done by the government regulatory agency to mop up the offending tomato from the
market and also to stop the importers so as to protect the lives of consumers.
When The Nation visited the agency’s office at Isolo, Lagos,
attempts to speak with a member of staff at the Food
Safety Directorate of the Agency were futile.
However, a source who asked not to be named, said: “No one
will tell you anything
concerning that issue as it is very sensitive.”
In a telephone chat with the Director, Food Safety and
Applied Nutrition Directorate of the Agency, Mrs. Veronica Ezeh, she said she wasn’t sure about
the outcome of the survey.
One week after with no response from the agency, our
correspondent followed up with a telephone and text
message to Mrs. Ezeh and the Agency’s Director of Public
Relations, Dr. Abubakar Jimoh,
but made no headway.
However, in an internal memo,
dated February 2015, from the Food Safety and Applied
Nutrition[FSAN] Directorate of NAFDAC and addressed to the
ex- Director General of the Agency, Dr. Paul Orhii, titled
‘Update on pilot study/survey of tomato paste in retail packs [tins and sachets] imported
from China, distributed and
sold in Lagos,’ “after a laboratory analysis of 330 samples of imported tomato
paste in the market, a total number of 286 were found
unsatisfactory while only 28 were satisfactory and the
result of 16 samples still awaiting to be released.”
According to the memo, signed by the former [FSAN] Director, Mrs. O.N. Mainasara, NAFDAC
officials visited 27 markets and four major supermarkets in the three senatorial zones in
Lagos and purchased samples for the laboratory analysis.
Lagos was chosen because of its position as the commercial
centre of Nigeria with two major seaports in Apapa,
Tincan Island, land borders, air cargo terminals and major
markets serving not only Nigeria but West and Central Africa sub region.
The focus of the study and laboratory analysis was the
tomato content. The codex standards and the Nigerian
Industrial Standards [NIS] has specified that tomato content
be 28% minimum.
Unfortunately, after the analysis, 91% were found to be unsatisfactory and
below both international and
Nigerian standards. Only 8.9% were satisfactory.
NAFDAC should start a
nationwide recall and mop up of these brands of tomato
paste in retail packs from China already in circulation.
All other importers would be advised to change manufacturing source until measures are taken to minimise dumping of
substandard products from China with the attendant health problems.
Also amongst others not listed, the memo stated that there
would be the need to inform relevant federal ministries, the Nigeria Customs, policy makers,
etcetera, of these measures in order to guide the federal
government policy on looking inwards to encourage local
industries and reduce import bills.
Now, the question is: What has NAFDAC done to safe guard the health of consumers, since
after this research? Like Professor Festus Odusille, a Food Scientist with the Lagos University Teaching Hospital
[LUTH] queried, what is the point of a research if the
results and recommendations
will not be acted upon?
Addressing newsmen recently in Abuja, Heineken Lokpobiri,
Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development,
described the tomato paste being imported into Nigeria from China as “poisonous’’.
According to Lokpobiri, China has been dumping their
tomato paste into Nigeria which NAFDAC has certified in their laboratory to be poisonous.
“With Ric-Giko and Dangote tomato paste, Nigeria is now
self sufficient in tomato paste
production.” But China is now
dumping their poisonous tomato paste in Nigerian
markets so that Nigerian producers will not make sales.
Lokpobiri further called on Nigerians to patronise locally
made food, describing most of
the food items being imported into Nigeria as poisonous.
While exonerating his ministry from blame on the recurrent
flooding of these food items into the Nigerian markets, the
minister said all agencies of
government in charge of Nigeria’s border must rise up
to perform their statutory
A recent undercover survey revealed that Nigeria’s porous
borders is one of the biggest factors challenging the success of Nigeria’s indigenous tomato
Commending the pace setter in the Nigerian tomato industry, Chief Eric Umeofia, the Chief
Executive Officer of Erisco Foods Ltd, manufacturer.