Stakeholders, NAFDAC disagree over importation of fake tomato paste
Stakeholders have alleged that poor supervision by the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), have emboldened some importers of substandard and cancer-causing tomato paste into Nigeria from Asian countries.
But the agency and importers denied the allegation.
The stakeholders, including Erisco Foods Limited, Dangote and Savannah Foods, who made presentations before the House of Representatives joint committees on Healthcare Services and Drugs and Narcotics investigating allegations of fake tomato paste in the country, specifically claimed that there have been official reports on the hazardous product coming from Asian countries, but the controlling agency feigned ignorance and failed to act.
They told the joint panel led by Chike John Okafor (APC, Imo) and Eucharia Azodo (PDP, Anambra) that indeed there existed substandard imported tomato pastes in Nigeria, which, according to them should be banned completely.
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Erisco Foods Limited, Eric Umeofia, said based on a survey conducted by NAFDAC last year, 91 per cent of imported tomato pastes from China are substandard and dangerous to the health of Nigerians.
He said despite the recommendation by the Food Safety Analysis and Nutrition Directorate of NAFDAC to mop up all the fake tomato pastes and immediately ban the importation of the offending products from China, the agency has “refused to save Nigerians from the scourge.”
He said rather NAFDAC “chose to threaten to close our factory down for exposing them” and still supports the “substandard tomato paste importers to continue to dump in Nigeria till we are closed down.”
He went on: “We are confident that as true representatives of the Nigerian people, you will compel NAFDAC and other agencies to do their job properly.
Meanwhile all our attempt to duly inform Nigerians of the existence of this dangerous brands of tomato pastes were frustrated by NAFDAC, as they refused to approve our advertisements even after we had adhered to all their suggested amendments.”
He also alleged that the country lost billions of naira as a result of the waivers granted some of the importers of substandard tomato pastes, which he said should be recovered by the government.
He spoke further: “In our own view, asking the same importers that know the good and standard quality of tomato paste but insisted on importing substandard tomato paste into Nigeria to bring their product samples for analysis, is like putting an armed robber on notice before police operation.”
This is so, because, “They will run away and change strategy to rob in more sophisticated ways after police must have gone back to their base.”