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EU ban on Nigerian beans echoes furore over SNIPER use

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The recent revelation that some traders of foodstuff are applying an insecticide popularly known as SNIPER on dried beans has reignited fears that Nigerians may have been consuming beans not fit for human consumption.
Beans is staple food consumed in many Nigerian homes. They are bought in the open market and there are no regulations guiding their sale.
The lack of a national pesticide policy and high levels of illiteracy among farmers means that beans planted in the country have been found to have high levels of chemicals that makes it unsafe for human consumption. Nigeria was banned from exporting beans to the European Union in 2015, as regulators found some consignments unfit for human consumption. Since the ban, regulatory authorities have done little or nothing to ensure that beans consumed within the country are safe for Nigerians.
While Nigeria has been fixated on meeting conditions set by the EU before the ban on exports is lifted, the local market is not getting the same attention, putting millions of Nigerians at risk. BusinessDay had contacted the EU last year; to enquire on the status of the ban and conditions to be met. Amongst other things in a detailed response, the EU indicated that samples of beans exported from Nigeria “presented a serious risk to human health”.

READ ALSO: NAFDAC warns against use of snipers to preserve foodstuffs

Nigeria’s rejected dried beans were found to contain between 0.03mg per kilogramme to 4.6mg/kg of dichlorvos pesticide, when the acceptable maximum residue limit is 0.01mg/kg.
“From January 2013 till April 2015, more than 50 notifications were issued to the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed in relation to dried beans originating from Nigeria,” wrote Aikaterini Apostola, press officer, Health and Food Safety, European Commission in an emailed response to BusinessDay enquiries last year.
“Results provided evidence that the import of this food presents a serious risk for human health,” said Apostola. It was further explained that it became “appropriate to suspend the import into the Union of dried beans from Nigeria, until the Nigerian authorities can provide substantial guarantees that they have put in place an adequate official control system to ensure that the products concerned comply with the relevant food law requirements.”
While the default in maximum permissible residue could be ascertained in the case of the EU, no one case say just how much the beans in Nigeria have been sprayed with the chemicals.
“What we have heard is that those who are planting are using these chemicals, while those who are storing are also using chemicals and by the time the products get to the market, we will already have excess dosage of chemical use,” said Heineken Lokpibiri, minister of state, Agriculture and Rural Development, in an exclusive interview after last year’s National Council on Agriculture and Rural Development meeting.
Vincent Isegbe, coordinating director of the Nigerian Agricultural Quarantine Service (NAQS) had also told BusinessDay that the main cause of excessive pesticide usage in preservation of agricultural commodities is the lack of a policy that regulates it.
“We don’t have a national pesticide regulation or policy. What we have in veterinary pests control services is for quiller birds and other animal pests. What NAFDAC does according to my little experience is registration, monitoring, and control of the chemicals,” said Isegbe.
Despite all these, there is still little to show that pesticide usage in Nigeria is being done within acceptable limits of ingestion that do not put human health at risk.
Reacting to the current public concerns, Mojisola Adeyeye, director general, National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) noted that; wrong application (direct spraying, mixing and sprinkling on beans and other grains) of agrochemicals such as Dichlorvos (2,2-Dichlorovinyl dimethyl phosphate also known as DDVP) and others, for storage and preservation of agricultural commodities by unauthorised persons, could have serious health implications.
“Ingestion of food contaminated by such agrochemicals can result in severe health conditions such as skin irritation, blindness, seizures, vomiting, diarrhoea, cancer and at high concentrations, convulsions, coma and even death,” said Adeyeye in a statement sent to BusinessDay.
The NAFDAC statement advises that “When you notice your grains/beans have traces of agrochemical, please do not buy or eat it,” but it is hard to imagine how the average consumer will be able to detect such chemicals on their own.

CALEB OJEWALE