NAFDAC Warns Traders Against Using Unauthorized Chemicals To Preserve Food

The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control has issued another warning to Nigerians about the risky practice of using toxic chemicals to preserve food.

Specifically, the government has banned and highlighted the hazards of dichlorvos, a chemical routinely used by traders to prevent food rotting.

In a statement issued by Sayo Akintola, Resident Media Consultant to NAFDAC, on Sunday, the agency raised alarm about a recent viral video showing people using harmful chemicals to preserve food products such as beans, stockfish, and crayfish.

“The sale of small volume dichlorvos (100 ml or less), sold as Sniper® has been banned since 2019 while the sale of the large volume (one litre) is limited to certified agrochemicals outlets. NAFDAC underscores the toxicity of dichlorvos to human health, cautioning that its use can have fatal consequences.”

Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye, Director General of NAFDAC, has encouraged traders and merchants to avoid using unauthorised chemicals on food intended for human consumption.

She said: “The misuse of dichlorvos poses significant risks to human health, manifesting in both short-term and long-term consequences. Long-term exposure can result in severe health implications, including developmental abnormalities in offspring, memory loss, reduced fertility, and potential carcinogenic effects.

These adverse effects highlight the importance of adhering to safety guidelines to mitigate the risks associated with dichlorvos exposure.”

Similarly, Dr. Rametu Momodu, Director of Veterinary Medicine and Applied Products (VMAP), reaffirmed that using some chemicals, particularly pesticides, to protect grains and beans from weevils is not permitted.

She said that there are certified pesticides for use as fumigants that should be used in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions on the product label.

She emphasised that these products should not be applied directly to food because they pose intrinsic risks to human health.

Momodu went on to say that eating dichlorvos-contaminated food can cause dizziness, vomiting, trouble breathing, tremors, and convulsions, and in severe cases, coma and death.

She warned that pesticide residues, once applied, persist on or in food, posing serious health hazards. Washing the food does not reduce the risk because the toxic component will have already seeped into it.

She stated that the Agency cannot advocate washing as a remedy since it creates a false sense of security.

“Instead, she urged grain merchants, market vendors, and farmers to adhere strictly to manufacturer guidelines and refrain from directly applying dichlorvos to beans and other foodstuffs. It should be used as intended, either as a field crop treatment or a fumigant, to ensure food safety”, she said.

Momodu also recommended consumers to avoid purchasing from vendors who use such techniques and to report them to the nearest NAFDAC office for appropriate punishment.

NAFDAC DG Adeyeye emphasised other ways of food preservation, citing bio-pesticides as a safer alternative to dichlorvos.

She highlighted that food that has not spoilt for a lengthy period of time may indicate pesticide contamination rather than freshness, unless it is stored in the refrigerator.

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In addition to the banning of the 100 ml size bottle, the NAFDAC DG said the agency has implemented several initiatives such as stakeholders’ sensitization meetings on restricting the direct application of dichlorvos on grains and foodstuffs and thorough laboratory testing to ensure pesticide residues do not exceed maximum limits for both in-country consumption and for exports.

She said, “Routine monitoring of stakeholders is also conducted to ensure compliance.”

Adeyeye reiterated NAFDAC’s commitment to global best practices, including the elimination of some pesticides that have been banned in other nations due to demonstrated toxicity.

She also acknowledged farmers’ hardships as a result of pesticide prohibitions and emphasised the significance of moving to safer alternatives.