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Consumer Safety: NAFDAC alerts Nigerians harmful chemicals in preserved foods cause cancer, death

*The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control underscores the toxicity of dichlorvos, a common chemical traders use to preserve food items, cautioning its use can have fatal consequences, including cancer on consumers’ health and death

Isola Moses | ConsumerConnect

As part of its consumer education and sensitisation initiatives, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) warned Nigerians against the use of dangerous chemicals to preserve food items for human consumption.

The health sector regulatory agency particularly highlighted the dangers associated with dichlorvos, a chemical commonly utilised by traders and vendors to safeguard nutritional items and other commodities from spoilage.

According to NAFDAC, 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.

The health regulator also underscores the toxicity of dichlorvos to human health, cautioning that its use can have fatal consequences.

In her comments on a recent viral video showing individuals using dangerous chemicals to preserve food items, such as beans, stockfish and crayfish, Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye, Director-General of NAFDAC, urged traders and merchants to desist from using unauthorised chemicals on food meant for human consumption, report said.

Effects of misuse of dichlorvos

According to NAFDAC, 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, the agency stated, highlight the importance of adhering to safety guidelines to mitigate the risks associated with dichlorvos exposure.

Dr. Rametu Momodu, Director of Veterinary Medicine and Applied Products (VMAP) at NAFDAC, was quoted to have stated that using certain chemicals, especially pesticides, to protect grains and prevent beans from having weevils is not an approved practice.

Momodu explained there are approved pesticides for use as fumigants, which should be used according to the manufacturer’s specifications on the product label.

The medical professional also stressed that these products should not be applied directly to food due to their inherent dangers to human health.

Dr. Momodu further elaborated that consuming food contaminated with dichlorvos could cause dizziness, vomiting, difficulty breathing, tremors, and convulsions, and in some cases, can lead to coma and death. She warned that once used, pesticide residues remain on or in the food, posing significant health risks.

Measures to keep safe

For protection of consumers’ health, Dr. Momodu explained washing the food does not mitigate the risk, as the harmful substance would have already soaked into it.

She equally noted that NAFDAC could not recommend washing as a solution, as this measure gives a false sense of security.

The Director of Veterinary Medicine and Applied Products, however, urged grain merchants, market vendors and farmers to adhere strictly to manufacturer guidelines and refrain from directly applying dichlorvos to beans and other foodstuffs.

The agency recommended that the chemical should be used as intended, either as a field crop treatment or a fumigant, to ensure food safety.

She further advised consumers to avoid buying from vendors known to use such practices and to report them to the nearest NAFDAC office for appropriate sanctions.

Prof. Adeyeye as well emphasised alternative methods for preserving food, mentioning the use of bio-pesticides as a safer option compared to dichlorvos.

The Director-General of NAFDAC noted the traders or vendors’ food remaining unspoiled for an extended period might indicate pesticide contamination rather than freshness, unless stored in the refrigerator.

Besides banning of the 100 ml size bottle as stated above, Adeyeye disclosed NAFDAC has implemented several initiatives, including stakeholders’ sensitisation 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.

Routine monitoring of stakeholders is also conducted to ensure compliance with the requisite regulation for safety of consumers, stated Adeyeye.

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