By Chioma Obinna
As Lagos State government commenced enforcement of compulsory use of face masks, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC, has warned that several washes, drying and stretching of the fabric face mask over time reduce its effectiveness even as it noted that non-medical face masks cannot prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease.
Stating this in a statement issued in Lagos, the Director-General of NAFDAC, Professor Christianah Adeyeye, explained that non-medical face masks which include self-made or commercial masks or face covers made of clothes, other textiles or other materials such as paper were not standardised and are not intended for use in healthcare settings or by healthcare professionals.
She added that such masks only limit the spread of droplets and when over washed loses its effectiveness.
“It must be noted that several washes, drying and stretching of the mask over time reduce the effectiveness of the mask.
“Non-medical face masks include self-made or commercial masks or face covers made of clothes, other textiles or other materials such as paper. They are not standardised and are not intended for use in healthcare settings or by healthcare professionals. They serve to limit the spread of droplets and offer some measure of protection to those around you.
“The material of construction is usually clothes (textile fabric), non-woven wadding, or paper-like materials. For these Barrier Masks, 100 per cent cotton is preferred though; polyester, linen or knit fabric can be used.
She said the fabric masks should be used alongside measures such as social distancing, not touching the face, eyes or mouth and washing of hands with soap for 20 seconds or use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers.
She advised Nigerians using such face masks recommended to be washed daily to ensure that it has a double layer of fabric to guarantee the absorbency and its effectiveness.
In a related development, the Agency has warned companies that market foods for infants and young children against the donation of Breast Milk Substitutes, BMS, in the context of lockdown and financial barriers occasioned by the national response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Issuing the warning in a statement, Adeyeye explained that companies should not provide free products, samples or reduced-prices for infants (below 6 months old) foods to families through health workers or health facilities, except as supplies distributed through Government or officially sanctioned health programmes.
Adeyeye said the guidance was in pursuant to the provisions of the NAFDAC Act, CAP N1 LFN 2004 and the Marketing (Breast Milk Substitutes) ACT CAP M.5 LFN 2004 and the BMS regulations, in keeping with the WHO International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes
She explained that the WHO International Code of Marketing of BMS requires that products distributed in such programmes should not display company brands.
“In this specific instance, the unbranded packaging is to focus on the need to support the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, where necessary in terms of infant and young child feeding, rather than use the pandemic as a platform for brand promotion.”
The Agency further advised all infant food manufacturers/distributors and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) wishing to make foods for infants and young children (BMS) available for distribution, through officially sanctioned health programmes, to adhere to the clarification provided above and approach NAFDAC for the necessary guidance.
“The importance of infant and young child feeding (IYCF) and the continued protection, promotion, and support of breastfeeding during the COVID-19 pandemic cannot be over-emphasized. Breastmilk is the best food for the newborn child as it protects them from sicknesses; it also helps to protect infants and young children. Breastfeeding is especially effective against infectious diseases as it boosts the child’s immunity by directly transferring antibodies from the mother to the child,” she added.