A SEARCHLIGHT on fish importers by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture has revealed the prevalence of bad fish in the cold rooms and markets.
The Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina, weeks ago, had undertaken unscheduled visits to cold-rooms and storage facilities in Lagos, only to uncover large-scale sales of spoilt fish to the unsuspecting public. Of three major outfits visited, only one was found to be operating according to industry guidelines.
Other inspections led to the discovery of 3,020 cartons or 60.5 metric tonnes of contaminated fish in a foreign-owned company on the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway, and 4,738 or 95.7 tonnes of rotten fish in a company with Nigerian connection in Lagos. The Federal Government has since embarked on massive destruction of such fish once discovered, while the law enforcement agencies have been mobilised to bring the perpetrators to book.
How long would the checks last? Something is terribly wrong if it takes a ministerial visit to uncover the sale of contaminated fish. How often would the Minister make the visits? Can he possibly visit the whole country? What has happened to the numerous agencies at the ports that should ensure importation of wholesome products?
How did the fish escape quality control tests at the ports? Where have the health authorities been operating? The surroundings of some of these companies stink from bad fish. Hardly any training is required to fish out the culprits, many of who throw away their rotten products close to their surroundings.
Another possibility is that the fish went bad in the cold rooms. Companies battling with the rising costs of producing their own electricity, elected to put the lives of the public at risk to recover their investment. Their cases should not be treated lightly. Many consumers have been complaining of the prevalence of bad imported fish.
The relevant departments and agencies of the state and federal governments should re-double their efforts and ensure that the prevalence of unwholesome products is halted. Businesses should have regard for the health of consumers and the larger interest of Nigeria. The foreign domination of the sector with consistent reports of violations of domestic and international laws on over-fishing are other causes for concern.
It is time the relevant organisations enlisted the partnership of the consumers to alert the nearest law enforcement agencies once the well-known signs of decay are noticed in fish. These include sunken eyes and softness when a finger is pressed on the fish. It is well established that consumption of unwholesome fish can result in deadly food poisoning. It is also cited as a source of cancer.
Risks from unwholesome food products are too high to be treated with levity.