The unrelenting reports on the presence of harmful chemicals in imported frozen chicken and instant noodles call for investigation by the relevant health agencies. It is, indeed, disturbing that Nigerians are from time to time alerted to the use of formalin for the preservation of frozen chicken imported. This chemical, which is widely used for the preservation or embalmment of corpses, is said to be found in frozen chicken imports. Instant noodles, which has become a staple for many young Nigerians, is also said to be stuck together with dangerous and carcinogenic waxes. The product is alleged to be heavily laced with propylene-glycol, and styrofoam, which is widely used for packaging of electronics.
Whether these two food items are really dangerous as reported, or they are being de-marketed by local producers or importers of competing food items, we think the time has come for the nation’s health agencies to undertake a comprehensive study of the items and come up with a definite statement on their safety.
Are imported frozen chicken and instant noodles safe for consumption or not? This is the big question that the National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), all other relevant agencies and the Federal Ministry of Health must answer.
It is very bad for consumers to live under the shadow of allegations of dangerous chemicals in their everyday foods. Government health agencies have a responsibility to put the minds of the people at rest on this matter.
This is more so as these food items have become staples in the country. Frozen chicken, in spite of a supposed ban, is available in virtually every food market in the country and is widely consumed on account of the fact that it is cheaper than meat and most fishes. Instant noodles can almost be described as the first choice meal of Nigerian children because of its low price and the short period required for its preparation.
This is why the Federal Government should no longer keep mute on this matter. It must wade in and get our health authorities to confirm the safety of these food items, once and for all. It is time for Nigeria to either confirm or permanently lay to rest the sundry allegations about them. Let the government certify the food items as safe or keep them out of the country. We enjoin NAFDAC to subject these food items to laboratory analysis and either confirm or deny their safety.
It is in view of these concerns that a federal lawmaker, Abubakar Amuda-Kannike, last week, enjoined Nigerians to stop consuming imported frozen poultry because of the process of its preservation.
The House of Representatives member also urged the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) and the Consumers Protection Council (CPC) to enforce the ban on the importation and smuggling of poultry products into the country.
The legislature is disturbed that imported and smuggled poultry products constitute a health hazard. They are suspected to cause kidney and liver diseases, apart from several other digestive and intestinal health issues.
Earlier in the year, scientists raised an alarm that persons who consume high amounts of imported chicken and turkey are at risk of kidney disease and typhoid fever that can lead to death. The National President of Poultry Association of Nigeria (PAN), Dr. Ayoola Oduntan, had then said that smuggled poultry meat is preserved with hazardous chemicals. He pointed out that the formalin load in all smuggled poultry products ranges from 42.9 to 63.3ml/kg. This is said to constitute a great risk to consumers’ health.
Similar concerns have also been expressed about the high amount of sodium in instant noodles, which exposes the consumer to hypertension, stroke and kidney damage. Preservatives in instant noodles such as tertiary-butyl hydroquinone (tbhq) are also said to be dangerous.
The concerns raised by the public over safety of imported poultry products and instant noodles are too weighty to be waved aside. The health implications of the consumption of these items are too serious to be overlooked.
Matters that concern the health of Nigerians should not be treated with levity. They are issues the Federal Government should do something about immediately. Government’s continued silence on this matter that seriously impinges on public health is not tidy.
It is in this respect that we call on the Federal Government to wade into the matter and institute an inquiry to determine the truth or otherwise of the various allegations on imported poultry, fish products and instant noodles. Beyond this, the government should at all times ascertain the safety of all food products.
The food regulatory agency, NAFDAC, should find out if the waxes used in making instant noodles are harmful to the health of consumers or not and whether the makers of instant noodles use harmful ingredients or not. Such findings should also be made public. On no account should the outcome be hidden from the public.