Chemical used for terrorism found in drinks that killed three in Kano – NAFDAC
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The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has revealed that deadly drinks which killed three people and led to hospitalisation of nearly 200 people in Kano State in March this year contained chemical used for terrorism.
This is even as the agency said it had arrested three merchants over the ‘adulterated flavoured drinks’ in the state.
NAFDAC’s Director-General Mojisola Adeyeye said in a statement signed by the agency’s Resident Media Consultant Sayo Akintola on Sunday that internal checks by NAFDAC revealed that only two of the five flavoured drinks identified in the incident were registered by the agency, while three were not on the agency’s data base.
Adeyeye, whom the statement said visited Kano State and submitted her preliminary findings to the state government, noted that the product was most likely smuggled into the country as, according to her, the agency tested all the food samples and found E-Coli bacteria in some.
“One would wonder how E-Coli bacteria would get into powder. It depends on the storage. If it’s stored in a very humid condition, and expired, the packaging probably was getting compromised. You can get bacteria into dry powdered medium. But ordinarily it shouldn’t happen,’’she said.
Having tested the additive chemical, it was discovered to be hydroxylamine, said Adeyeye, adding that “it’s a poison. Sometimes it’s used for terrorism. This is very sad because it involved people dying.”
She explained that any food that was unregistered would not be guaranteed by NAFDAC and could be unwholesome.
The DG emphasised that the chemical did not pass through NAFDAC as, according to her, there were no records at the agency’s Chemical Evaluation and Research Directorate to suggest that permission was given to anyone to import the chemical into the country while internal checks at the Ports Inspection Directorate of NAFDAC revealed that the chemical was not imported through the ports.
‘’Definitely, it was smuggled into the country,’’ she said, noting that before any chemical could be legally imported into Nigeria, full authorisation and permit must be obtained from NAFDAC to ensure that no dangerous chemicals were brought into the country and used to the detriment of the population.
Speaking on how the arrested merchants allegedly conducted their business, the agency’s boss explained that they also brought an additive that was kept in transparent freezer bag.
“There was another unknown chemical that was sold as food additive. This chemical for 25KG 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. A 25KG kilo bag of the unknown chemical was also sent to the Agency’s laboratory in Kaduna for testing,” she added in the statement.
Meanwhile, to curb further tragedies arising from consumption of the product, the Pharmacovigilance Directorate of NAFDAC has sent alert to all its 36 State offices and the FCT to mount surveillance on the unregistered products and mop them up.
‘’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,” part of the statement read.
NAFDAC has warned people in the country against adding chemicals and additives to food and drinks to enhance taste, stressing that such practices could result in severe illness and even death.
‘’ 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,’’ Adeyeye said, adding that whether it was food or water, adding chemicals and other substances either to enhance the food or change its form could be dangerous, especially when people could not verify the source and content of such additives.
The NAFDAC DG opined that Nigerians had a critical role to play to ensure that they did not fall victims to food poisoning, noting with dismay that despite all the measures being put in place by the agency to ensure safe foods, chemicals and other regulated products, there were those who still found ways to smuggle the chemicals into the country.
‘’The public should know that they don’t have to add chemicals to food except table salt. Chemicals kill very fast because there is no prescribed amount to use,” she said, stressing that ‘’to use chemical to make a food or drink sour, you may never know what you are adding.”
She listed the regulated additives as sugar, saccharin, and sweetening, adding that ‘’there is prescribed amount to put. Sugar for drinks, Saccharin for drinks and sweetening. These are inside the food and not something you sprinkle on the food like what happened in Kano.’’
The ICIR reports that NAFDAC’s current position on the incident conflicts with its earlier claim.
It is also at variance with earlier position of Kano State government that the deaths and hospitalisations were caused by use of expired products in sachet water and local drinks.
Acting Managing Director of the state Consumer Protection Agency Baffa Babba-Da’agundi had told reporters that his agency busted a warehouse in Minjibir Local Government Area where the drinks were kept for distribution.
NAFDAC, through its Kano State coordinator Shaba Muhammad had said shortly after the tragedy that it was suspected to be caused by drinking sachet water and locally processed drinks in the state.
He had said: “Reports indicated that the infection involves sachet water and local drinks suspected to be prepared with expired and adulterated products.
“We collected samples of the suspected water and the products for analysis to establish the cause of the disease.”
The state government also said it had apprehended four persons in connection with the incident.
Chairperson of the state committee on infectious diseases outbreak Bashir Lawal revealed the incident that was first reported on March 11 to journalists on Tuesday March 16, this year.
He reportedly said at least four persons were confirmed dead while 189 others were placed on treatment for poisoning after consuming expired juice drink in the state.
There had been incidents of poisoning from foods in Nigeria.
In 2008, reports showed how dozens were killed in Nigeria after taking poisoning medicine.
Another report also detailed how people died of food poisoning in the country.