The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has warned the public to desist from patronising unbranded cereals in the open market, adding that such products do not have NAFDAC registration/marketing authorisation numbers.
NAFDAC Resident Media Consultant, Sayo Akintola disclosed this in a statement issued on Sunday, August 20, 2023
Akintola said the Director General of NAFDAC, Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye, dropped the strong note of warning at the Agency’s Food Safety and Applied Nutrition Directorate Stakeholders Engagement with food sector operators in Lagos, where she insisted that ‘’if a product doesn’t have NAFDAC number we can’t guarantee the safety’’.
Adeyeye emphasized that all the products that had gone through the regulatory processes were packaged with NAFDAC registration numbers on them.
‘’We cannot speak to the safety of unbranded food in the open market. We do not know where they have come from. We don’t know anything about the expiry date. We cannot trace”, she said.
In 2021 and 2022, she recalled that the Agency carried out a lot of investigation and enforcement activities on unbranded cereals leading to the arrest of some people that were selling online in Onitsha and brought them to Lagos.
Delving into the psychology of the consumption pattern of the risky products, the DG disclosed that in the cause of investigation, it was discovered that people would prefer to buy the unbranded ones despite the inherent dangers associated with it.
‘’We considered the circumstances and the packaging, and we couldn’t really understand whether it is cheaper.
‘’We found out that even some smaller packages, the smallest packages of cereals were also removed from the packaging materials and also sold in bulk. They add them together and sell online”, the DG disclosed.
On the issue of the source of the cereals, the NAFDAC Boss argued that some industries were also complicit in this. She said, ‘’we found out that some of the cereals were picked up from dump sites in Agbara”.
She informed that investigations by the Agency revealed that the products were disposed of through Ogun State Waste Management Authority, adding that the disposal methods of companies were also an issue:
‘’If you want to dispose of some bad or expired products, you are supposed to destroy them by NAFDAC Investigation and Enforcement Directorate, not by the company directly through waste disposal authorities. It will always get to scavengers who will sell it back to the market”.
According to her, further investigations revealed that most of the products were stolen from company warehouses, ‘’because we found out that not all the products had expired. Some of them were in the company’s packaging materials when diverted to sell at retail prices online and in the marketplaces.’’
Last year the Agency uncovered two warehouses at Trade Fair Complex, Lagos loaded with N3 billion worth of counterfeit drugs and children’s cereals picked from dump sites.
‘’We also must sensitize the industry because if there are compromises in the industry it could lead to serious dangers to our health’’, she said, stressing that ‘’If the SOP in the industry says go and dump it in a dump site, the industry is at fault also’’.
She noted that, ‘’if the person that got it stolen from the factory is going to sell it less than the packaged material from the company, people will want to buy even if it has later been contaminated”.
Prof. Adeyeye however, called for the investigation and prosecution of those who took the products from the dump site for sale, adding that, ‘’our climate is not very helpful when it comes to food preservation. If it is in the open air, it’s going to start getting degraded. That’s why we should avoid exposure of food to the elements”.
She, therefore, urged manufacturers of food products to always be more concerned about their products in the market by establishing Post Market Surveillance units in their companies.
She recalled that years ago, the Agency had made Post Marketing Surveillance (PMS) mandatory for companies, but compliance had been poor. She, however, stated that henceforth, if a company doesn’t have Post Marketing Surveillance (PMS) or Post Marketing Pharmacovigilance (for drug manufacturing Companies) department, the product will not be renewed.
‘’We have asked companies to establish PMS dept where they send people out to the market to see what is happening to their products out there. Once you get an inkling of somebody adulterating your product you call us because you don’t have the power to go with the police. We have the power to go and raid. That’s why we need collaboration because we must change our industrial practice.
The Agency strongly calls for more food safety consciousness and compliance for continuous improvement in imbibing a food safety culture amongst industry players and consumers. This, she said, will make for the desired conformance to safety practices in the processing, production, packaging, distribution, and storage of pre-packaged foods.
‘’NAFDAC will continue to advocate for the support of her partners and stakeholders in the quest for better, safer, healthier, more nutritious food. We all stand to benefit from this as we are all consumers’’.