- Culprit arrested
By Onyebuchi Ezigbo
The National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has said that investigations showed that the chemical added to the killer flavoured drink that led to the death of three persons in Kano contained “Hyroxylamine” used for terrorism.
It said all the merchants of the deadly chemicals and additives have been apprehended, while further investigation continues.
The Director General of NAFDAC, Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye, in a statement on Sunday, signed by NAFDAC’s Resident Media Consultant, Sayo Akintola, warned Nigerians against adding chemicals and additives to food and drinks to enhance taste, stressing that such practices could result in severe illness and even death.
On the recent Kano incident where three people reportedly died as a result of their consumption of dangerous chemicals used as additives, Adeyeye explained that a preliminary result of the Agency’s investigation indicated that the additive chemical was Hyroxylamine.
“Having tested the additive chemical, it was discovered to be Hyroxylamine. It’s a poison. Sometimes its used for terrorism. This is very sad because it involved people dying,” she said.
Adeyeye said that shortly after the news about the Kano incident was received by NAFDAC, six directorates of the Agency immediately swung into action to unravel the mystery behind the sad event.
She added that internal checks revealed that only two of the five flavoured drinks identified in the incidence were registered by NAFDAC, while three were not on the agency’s data base.
According to her, samples of the chemicals and additives that were added while preparing the flavoured drinks for consumption were collected and taken to NAFDACs laboratory in Kaduna for testing.
She said that further testing was conducted at the Agency’s central laboratory in Lagos for confirmation.
‘’We have five flavoured drinks. Two were registered, while three were not. Any food that is unregistered are not guaranteed by NAFDAC and could be unwholesome.
“It’s fake food. It was most likely smuggled into the country,” she explained.
Adeyeye said that the agency tested all the food samples, and that there was E-Coli bacteria in some, adding that it is surprising how E-Coli bacteria would get into powder.
The DG said that the preliminary report of the agency has been submitted to the Kano State Governor, Alhaji Abdullahi Umar Ganduje.
She said that the Pharmacovigilance directorate of the Agency has sent an alert to all its 36 state offices of NAFDAC and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to mount surveillance on the unregistered products and mop up the killer chemical.
She emphasised that the chemical did not pass through NAFDAC as there are no records at the Chemical Evaluation and Research Directorate to suggest that permission was given to anyone to import the chemical into the country.
She added that internal checks at the Ports Inspection Directorate revealed that the chemical was not imported through the ports.
‘’Definitely, it was smuggled into the country,’’ she said, noting that before any chemical can be legally imported into Nigeria, full authorisation and permit must be obtained from NAFDAC to ensure that no dangerous chemicals are brought into the country and used to the detriment of the Nigerian people.
‘’For safety and security concerns, NAFDAC does end-to-end monitoring for all chemicals. We request for distribution and utilisation patterns before we give importers permits to import chemicals. We must know who you have sold the chemicals to in your report. These are the things you must clarify to us before we give approval for permit to clear chemical consignments,” she said.
Adeyeye regretted that three fatalities were recorded from the Kano incident with many people having their health compromised.
She said that it’s heartwarming to note that all the merchants of the deadly chemicals and additives have been apprehended while further investigation continues.
She pointed out that food contamination and poisoning could occur through consuming expired food.
The NAFDAC boss also explained that food poisoning could occur by preparing food with poorly sourced water and putting cooked food on the shelf for several days or months: or in the refrigerator for too long amongst others.
‘’We are very particular about food additives, about the temperature at which a food can be kept, or about the expiration date of food. If all of these are violated, then there could be food poisoning,” she said, adding: “Whether it’s food or water, adding chemicals and other substances either to enhance the food or change its form can be dangerous especially when we can’t verify the source and content of such additives.”
Adeyeye said that NAFDAC is now working assiduously in partnership with the Kano State Government with a view to preventing the reoccurrence of the March 11, 2021 incident.
She said that her Agency will be working with the Kano State Taskforce under the Federal Taskforce on Counterfeit and Fake Drugs and Unwholesome Processed Foods, which is domiciled in NAFDAC, and the Nigeria Consumers Protection Agency in Kano.
While giving more explanation on the Kano incident, Adeyeye said that the investigators found an additive that was kept in a transparent freezer bag.
She said that there is another unknown chemical that is sold as food additive.
“This chemical for 25 Kg bag was supposed to be sold for N30,000. One of the merchants got it for N3,000 and sold it to another merchant for N7,000. The merchant that got it for N7,000 thought it was Dantsami (Hausa for ‘something sour’) that they normally use and tasted it to confirm that truly it was Dantsami. Dantsami is what is used in some parts of northern Nigeria to make drinks sour. 25 Kg kilo bag of the unknown chemical was also sent to the Agency’s laboratory in Kaduna for testing,” she said.
The NAFDAC DG said there are measures being put in place by the agency to ensure safe foods, chemicals and other regulated products, but regretted that some people still find ways to smuggle these chemicals into the country.