• Wednesday, May 22, 2024
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BusinessDay

Concerns heighten on government inability to guarantee food safety

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Agric experts have raised concerns on government’s failure to sufficiently guarantee food safety in Nigeria, amid claims that adequate measures are being taken to tackle the wrong usage of pesticides in food preservation, particularly the sniper-treated beans currently in circulation.
‎Audu Ogbeh, minister of agriculture and rural development, however, told BusinessDay that the various directors of agriculture in the states, as well as the National Orientation Agency (NOA), had been directed to embark on a campaign to educate the farmers on other best practices in beans preservation as well as other products to ensure healthier consumption.
Although Ogbeh declined comments on whether the ministry will enlist punishment measures for culprits found using inappropriate preservatives on commodities considering the attendant health hazards, he said the government was concerned more now with creating awareness to ensure healthier consumption of food.
‎”Government alone cannot track every farmer across the country, but we are embarking on awareness creation to ensure healthy habits from production value chains to consumption,” he said.

READ ALSO: Imperative of organic farming for food safety

Last Friday, the Consumer Protection Council (CPC) confirmed that it had credible information that retailers, mostly in the open market, were using a pesticide, 2,2-dichlorovinyl dimethyl phosphate (DDVP) compound, otherwise marketed and known as “Sniper” to preserve beans from weevil attack.
The Council said the chemical composition and nature was potentially injurious when human beings were “unduly exposed by inhalation, absorption, direct skin contact or ingestion,” and that the “risk of injury on account of consumption of beans exposed to, or treated with Sniper is also existential, even though, an unintended consequence.
“The Council is not a law enforcement, as such, we cannot make arrest, but we are creating awareness of what consumer safety measures people should take to address this concern. The government is not resting on its oars as appropriate measures are being taken by concerned stakeholders to address the development,” Abiodun Obumuyiwa, the spokesperson for the CPC, later told BusinessDay.

Confirming CPC’s alert, the minister, on Sunday expressed displeasure at the use of chemicals for food preservation and fruit ripening, admitting that the act was detrimental to human health and the environment.
“Sniper is very dangerous; people also use carbide to ripen bananas and some other fruits; people do all kinds of things. Suddenly, people are developing different diseases, something is wrong,’’ he was quoted to have said.
‎But there are wide concerns that the government authorities are only paying lip service to the matter and that efforts on general food safety is not commendable, and taking a huge toll on Nigeria’s non-oil export, particularly beans.

Ike Ubaka, president of All Farmers Association of Nigeria, recalled that European Food Safety Authority rejected Nigerian beans having found that they contained between 0.03mg per kilogram to 4.6mg/kg of dichlorvos pesticide when the acceptable maximum residue limit is 0.01mg/kg.
Ubaka regretted that Nigeria’s Food and Safety agencies were mostly reactionary in their duties of ensuring safety standards for food.

“The Phytosanitary department in the Ministry of Agriculture should be able to guarantee food safety from the farm to even to marketplaces. There are also other agencies, but they are not living up to the standards. Little wonder kidney and liver diseases are on the rise,” Ubaka told BusinessDay.
But Taiye Alabi, a lecturer at the Federal University of Technology Akure, told BusinessDay that even proper application of the pesticides was very key in ensuring food safety.
He said, “Sniper is a pesticide containing DDVP (2,2-diclorovinyl dimethyl phosphate, and organophosphate compound), and is used as a preservative for agricultural products. It is not only Hausa boys that use it. Anyone dealing in Agric products utilises it to minimise weevil infestation.”
He maintained, “The instructions regarding dosage and duration of treatment, meaning the period of time within which the chemical should be harmless must be strictly followed for efficiency and reduced risks.”

Mariama Salihu‎, researcher and nutrition expert, advocated par-boiling of affected beans with anti-oxidants such as ginger to weaken the effect of the chemicals.
She said, “Even, serious washing and parboiling is not a full guarantee of little concentration not being into our body system.‎The major solution lies in cooking with natural antioxidants like ginger, garlic and taking bitter kola, carrots, etc, to eliminate toxins from what we eat daily out of our body system.

“Actually, this is not a criminal practice, it is meant to preserve the freshly harvested beans to preserve and make food available throughout the year. That is why, all the herbicides, insecticides are sold mainly at Agrochemical shops.
“However, such small quantity of pesticide on beans and other grains, cereals must not be eaten till (after) four months, minimum.
“But because of poverty, ignorance and best profit time, they are sometimes sold to the public for consumption before four months elapse, then the residual effects of the pesticides affect the reproductive system, liver, kidney and cause immediate and long-term damages.”