The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has warned food manufacturing companies that it will no longer accept poorly destroyed expired or stolen goods that make their way back into the market through scavengers at waste dump sites.
NAFDAC said that these products pose a serious health risk to consumers, especially children. The agency warned that companies that fail to destroy expired products properly could face serious sanctions.
It also urged consumers to be vigilant and to only buy food products from reputable sources.
Mojisola Adeyeye, made the warning at the Agency’s Food Safety and Applied Nutrition Directorate Stakeholder’s Engagement with food sector operators in Lagos, where she insisted that “a product without NAFDAC verification cannot be guaranteed”.
Condemning the culture of patronizing unbranded cereals in the open market, Adeyeye warned that when a product is not certified by NAFDAC, it is not advised that anybody should consume it, adding that the unbranded products in the market do not have NAFDAC registration or marketing authorization number.
“We cannot speak to the safety of unbranded food in the open market. We do not know where they have come from. We don’t know anything about the expiry date. We cannot trace”, she said.
In 2021 and 2022, the Agency carried out investigations and enforcement activities on unbranded cereals leading to the arrest of some people that were selling online in Onitsha and bringing them to Lagos.
The DG explained that in the cause of the investigation, it was discovered that people would prefer to buy the unbranded ones despite the inherent dangers associated with it.
“We considered the circumstances and the packaging, and we couldn’t really understand whether it is cheaper”, she said, adding that “we found out that even some smaller packages, the smallest packages of cereals were also removed from the packaging materials and also sold in bulk. They add them together and sell online”.
On the issue of the source of the cereals, the NAFDAC boss argued that some industries are also complicit in this as some cereals were picked up from dump sites in Agbara.
She said that investigations by the Agency revealed that the products were disposed of through Ogun State Waste Management Authority, adding that the disposal methods of companies are also an issue.
“If you want to dispose of some bad or expired products, you are supposed to destroy it by NAFDAC Investigation and Enforcement Directorate, not by the company directly through waste disposal authorities. It will always get to scavengers who will sell it back to the market.”
According to her, further investigations revealed that most of the products were stolen from companies’ warehouses, with some of them in companies’ packaging materials when diverted to sell at retail prices online and in the marketplaces.’’
Last year the agency uncovered two warehouses at Trade Fair Complex, Lagos, loaded with N3 billion worth of counterfeit drugs and children’s cereals picked from dump sites.
“We also must sensitize the industry because if there are compromises in the industry it could lead to serious dangers to our health”, she said, stressing that “If the SOP in the industry says go and dump it in a dump site, the industry is at fault also”.
She, however, urged manufacturers of food products to always prioritise establishing Post Market Surveillance units in their companies.
She stated that henceforth if a company doesn’t have a Post Marketing Surveillance or Post Marketing Pharmacovigilance (for drug manufacturing companies) department, the product will not be renewed.
‘’We have asked companies to establish PMS dept where they send people out to the market to see what is happening to their products out there. Once you get an inkling of somebody adulterating your product you call us because you don’t have the power to go with the police,” she said.
“We have the power to go and raid. That’s why we need collaboration because we must change our industrial practice. That’s how to get the best out of your trade. Once you tell us, I assure you we will be there in hours in terms of mopping it up and getting the suspect arrested and prosecuted”.