I woke up this morning with a feeling of nausea. No, I am not ill; I am just sickened by the thought of consuming foods that should not be on the shelf in the first place. My chain of thoughts took me through the many food hazards that people fall prey to everyday- biological, chemical and physical hazards. I keep asking, how does a nation fare without regular food recalls?
Who looks out for the Nigerian consumer?
Following the outbreak of listeriosis that prompted a nationwide recall in South Africa, I set out to examine the frequency of food recalls in Nigeria. The result is not encouraging, considering that we have many unmonitored food producers and products.
What is a food recall?
The United States Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) defines food recall as a voluntary action by a manufacturer or distributor to protect the public from products that may cause health problems or possible death. A food recall is carried out to remove unsafe food from distribution, sale and consumption.
A recall is intended to remove food products from circulation when there is reason to believe the products may be adulterated or misbranded. Recalls can be done for a number of reasons; what is most interesting here is that food can be recalled for misbranding. Does this even sound remotely familiar to a Nigerian consumer?
There have been instances in our nation when allegations have been made about contamination of some products. All we witness is damage control, excuses and denials. We do not see situations where such claims are verified and recalls announced.
In a nation without recalls, does it mean that our food products are always uncontaminated and free from adulteration? Are we more resilient than other nations? Are we simply negligent and careless about our well-being? Can we tell whether many unexplained sicknesses and deaths are due to the consumption of unwholesome foods that should have been recalled?
Food recalls give consumers a sense of safety; it leaves them with the assurance that the regulatory agency is looking out for them and that the government cares about the well being of the people. Food recalls show that consumers’ health trumps the economic gains of producers.
Who initiates a recall?
Recall can be initiated by a food manufacturer when discrepancies are noticed; it can also be done at the request of a regulatory agency or enforced if the manufacturer refuses to take necessary action. The most important factor behind a food recall is the health of consumers
Have you ever heard of a poultry producer recalling a particular batch of chicken or eggs because of possible Salmonella infection in Nigeria? Have you heard of noodles being recalled because of possible pesticide contamination? Has it occurred to you that the juice you give your child daily could be contaminated with unapproved additives?
Where are we in the recall game?
I am not referring to when we reiterate recalls that were made in other countries because their products are available in the Nigerian market; I am referring to a Nigerian company making a voluntary recall of its product or one of our regulatory agencies enforcing a recall.
Recently, Rose Acre Farms, of Seymour, Indiana, United States, recalled over 2 million eggs after twenty three people were sickened by Salmonella braenderup linked to the farm. Authorities were able to give a list of retail stores, restaurants and brands that were distributing the eggs and the whole batch was recalled, not minding the number (2 million eggs!!!).
Obviously, we are different from the United States, Canada, Australia and other nations that have the proper procedures in place; we can however start taking baby steps towards proper packaging, labeling, traceability and recalls to ensure the safety of Nigerians.
How many Nigerians are aware that there is a ‘RECALL AND ALERTS’ section on the NAFDAC website?
There is no rule that says once a product is distributed, it must be consumed. If it is discovered to be unwholesome, it should be discarded. This is my submission. what is your own opinion on this lack of food recalls in Nigeria? Kindly drop your thoughts in the comments section below.