As consumers of fresh tomatoes and farmers at large battle with scarcity the product across
major markets in the country due to the outbreak of “Tuta
Absoluta” or “tomato Ebola”, which has severely ravaged
tomato production in Nigeria, many are already switching to
tomato pastes, opening windows for importers to bring
in substandard tomato pastes,
especially from China.
But some experts believe 85% of such products are not properly processed even though they
may be reddish in colour may contain elements that cause
cancer and other diseases.
A recent discovery by the global food safety concerns on
processed fruits and vegetables
indicated that a group of Asians
and their Nigerian collaborators have been importing diseases by selling starch and colouring
in the name of tomato pastes.
Apart from the cancer-causing
colouring, the starch contained in those products is clearly
harmful to unsuspecting
diabetic patients, showing how
vulnerable Nigeria’s food security readiness is.
This has made Nigeria to be
ranked among developing
countries that give too much priority to importation of
substandard products worth N15 billion annually.
The Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Erisco
Foods, Chief Eric Odinaka Umeofia, however, blamed
those in authority who, out of their selfish gains, pave way for such imports to flourish, while
undermining the health of Nigerians.
The Erisco boss did not leave government agencies like NAFDAC out of the blame, insisting that they made
government to believe that
imported tomato pastes are superior to locally produced
ones, thereby down playing the hazards of some of the
According to him, the existing loopholes in policy formulation
and implementation have allowed a preference of
imported products over locally produced ones.
He described the situation as unfortunate, as
the so-called foreign products are substandard and cannot match locally produced ones.
But while challenging the allegations made by the manufacturers, NAFDAC’s Director of Planning, Research
and Statistics, Samson Adebayo,
advised that they come forward with evidence of anyone whose death was traceable to the
consumption of imported tomato paste.
Adebayo insisted that not only was the survey restricted to
Lagos, but that it would be wrong to ban any product
based on a single study. He further accused the
manufacturers of seeking the ban of imported products to
create demand for their brands as according to him , the official survey of the agency showed that only 30% of products
failed to meet set standards.
Earlier in his welcome address,
Chairman of the Committee on
Healthcare Services, Chike Okafor (APC-Imo) assured that
the investigations of the House include the testing of products.
He disclosed that the joint committee will visit suppliers in
China, India and the United States where majority of importers procure tomato
concrete for production.
Okafor equally stated that a full list of the products that fail the
tests to be conducted by the House will be published in the
Addressing journalists recently,
he predicted that a basket of tomato might go for N70,000 by 2017 if government fails to
listen to indigenous companies on how to solve the problem of
tomato ebola caused by heat ravaging tomato farms in the
He then urged Nigerians to go for indigenous and locally made
products to avoid untimely death, adding that most of
those so-called imported products are fakes and can’t
match what Nigerians are
He said locally made Ric-Giko tomato paste is better than foreign products in the market, since it is hygienically processed and has a proven quality
compared to the fake products Nigerians are cajoled into
believing as better off because they are imported.
He added: “People are just taking advantage of their
positions in authority to work against the progress of this
country and the government is
not doing anything to stop them. They give preference to
imported products because they are the ones handling the
contracts and they are making huge amounts for themselves while the local industries are
He called on the government to
put good policies in place that will place value on locally
manufactured products over
imported ones. He lamented that no country has ever grown its economy with foreign
products, urging government to
realise this fact and take necessary measures against the
influx of substandard goods.