- …To visit 130 plants in Asia
- …We don’t compromise standards—NAFDAC
- By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
ABUJA—TOMATO Pastes manufacturers in the country, including Dangote Farms, Erisco Foods Limited and Savanna Farms, yesterday told the House of Representatives Joint Committees on Health Care Services and Drugs and Narcotics that over 91.1 per cent of the product in the country were fake and substandard. This is just as the House condemned alleged importation of dangerous killer tomato pastes into the country and promised to carry out investigations into the matter.
NAFDAC fines Erisco N1 million over unauthorised advert
This came on a day the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC, fined the Erisco Foods an administrative charge of N1 million for alleged unauthorised advertisement of Erisco range of products without clearance and approval from the agency.
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, in his address at the one day investigative public hearing, stated that the House should not treat lightly allegations injurious to public health. Dogara, who was represented by the Minority Leader, Leo Ogor, stated that the public hearing centred primarily on importation of fake, substandard and cancer-causing tomato paste into the country.
He said what was worrisome was the unpatriotic attitude of some companies and individuals importing fake, substandard and cancer-causing tomato paste into the country, at the expense of the health and wellbeing of Nigerians.
Tomoto pastes containing carcinogens
Chairman, House Committee on Healthcare Services, Chike John Okafor, stated that there was allegation of tomato pastes from some Asian countries by some importers which were found to contain carcinogens and other contaminants hazardous, injurious to health and unfit for human consumption.
The lawmaker said: “This allegation created panic, mistrust, fear and is suspected to be responsible for high death rate and the probable cause of the current cause of scarcity of tomatoes, and its attendant high cost in the country. “Let me state in clear terms that this committee has a responsibility to protect the lives of numerous Nigerian consumers who could be the victims of this alleged importation.
Condemning killer tomato pastes
“We totally condemn these alleged dangerous killer tomato pastes imported into Nigeria and we will carry out a comprehensive investigation into this matter, even if it will take us beyond the borders of Nigeria, including visiting the factories in Asia and other parts of the world to inspect the processing factories of NAFDAC approved Nigeria importers to get to the bottom of this allegation and bring the perpetrators to book.”
Expressing confidence that NAFDAC understood its responsibility, in accordance with the Act establishing it, Chike said: “I want to believe that this allegation is not true. However, if proven to be true, that means NAFDAC would be seen to have done a great disservice to this country and compromised representatives/staff of NAFDAC would be dealt with, in line with the laws of the land.”
The public hearing was temporarily halted because of the inability of the representatives of the Minister of Health, and NAFDAC to make available copies of their submissions to the committee members, which made some to accuse them of alleged collusion.
Specifically, Austin Chukwukere told the committee that it did not make sense for them to watch the representatives of the ministry and the agency read their submissions without making them available. “It gives us serious cause for concern that you (Health Ministry) are not ready, NAFDAC is not ready,” chairman of the committee said.
The legal Adviser of Erisco Foods and former member of the House of Representatives, Abdulraham Kadri, told the committee that the company, Dangote and Savanna Farms, were not at the public hearing because of the financial damage and job losses substandard and fake tomato pastes had caused the country.