The European Union’s Rapid Alert System for food says it has detected excessive levels of chemical contaminants in Nigerian food exports. These include beans, melon seeds, sweet potatoes, cashew kernels, dried fish and meat, peanut chips, nutmeg, soft drinks and sesame seeds.
The discovery prompted the EU to ban the import of these foods until the pesticide level reaches a “safe” limit of 01. mg per kilogram. The ban stays in effect until June 2016.
“The ban has affected everyone, both suppliers and retailers,” fretted Ibrahim Anjorin, owner of the Afro Asian Caribbean Shop, in Castlebar, County Mayo, Ireland, who is now sourcing his merchandise elsewhere. “We’re now getting yams from Ghana, hot peppers from Uganda; even our palm oil has been banned.”
But the ban is not a bolt from the blue, observed the Nigerian magazine Punch. “For some time, the EU has been warning Nigeria that these items constitute a danger to human health because they contain a high level of unauthorized pesticide. The EU said it issued 50 notifications to Nigerian beans exporters since January 2013.
“It is baffling,” the editors went on, “that Nigerian authorities didn’t take any significant steps to reverse the situation. The United Kingdom issued 13 border rejection alerts to Nigerian beans exporters between January and June 2015. Our lax system will continue to hamper the economy from appropriating the benefits derivable from a revived export program.”
A ban on Nigerian foods raises disturbing questions, they noted. “First, how do we preserve the foods that we eat locally? Second, how safe are the foods we import into the country? With our predilection for manipulating the system, Nigerian consumers might be susceptible to poisonous food imported from overseas.”
Ayoola Oduntan, president of the Poultry Association of Nigeria, said it was discovered that smuggled poultry products contained a high level of bacteria. Also, toxic chemicals and solvents were used in preserving them so that the owners could get them into the country to be sold at prices cheaper than we (PAN members) are selling, he said.
“We should be wary,” warned the editorial board, recalling that in March 2014, Akinwunmi Adesina, the then Minister of Agriculture, personally ordered the destruction of a large consignment of contaminated imported frozen fish stored in a warehouse in Lagos.
Meanwhile, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has warned against the consumption of imported or smuggled frozen poultry meat, as it has been discovered to be a cause of non-communicable diseases and antibiotics resistance.