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How does a nation fare without regular food recalls?

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.

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Comments

    • Tope Ayomide
    • May 9, 2018
    Reply

    This is a real eye opener. Thank you for the write up. If this is being done regularly in other countries, why not Nigeria? May God save us.

    1. Reply

      I really hope we get there soon. Thanks for your comment.

    • AYO Adepoju
    • June 2, 2018
    Reply

    Knowledge of what is the minimum standard is the first step that a dedicated department of food safety must ensure in Nigeria. Too many issues ranging from unavailability of right food items, lack of purchasing power to demand best grade of stuff, and the matter of many ‘fakes’ in market such that you hardly recognize the originals.
    My opinion: National orientation and education on food safety.
    Having been properly educated, a toll free emergency line (as in fire service, security and accident) should be made available to Nigerians such that when any foul play is discovered, the experts would be alerted. I think the scope of NAFDAC should be widened to accommodate this. I think it is this credible organisation that should investigate and take the steps of recall. Abuse of recall may be orchestrated by rival food producers if proper procedures are not put in place. Remember, business owners need to be protected too.
    Dr Kunbi, I hope you would continue to push for the issue of food safety. Nigerians would spend less on hospital bills and drugs when we eat good and safe food.
    God bless you.

    1. Reply

      You have summarized the heart cry of most Nigerians in your comment. There is need for Nigerians to trust the regulatory bodies and that can only come with regular intervention and follow-up. Thanks so much for your contribution.

    • BAkin
    • June 2, 2018
    Reply

    I never knew about the recall and alert section on the NAFDAC site . Even if they are alerted will they act on it?

    1. Reply

      I guess more campaign is needed to create awareness on that. It is important for citizens to be aware of such channel.

    • Lawal olalekan
    • June 4, 2018
    Reply

    Lack of awareness has really set us back as a nation, even at that the agents controlling the recallS are totally corrupt ,they will rather follow up on how to enrich their pocket rather than saving lives of the citizens. This has been a general problem facing us as a country. Therefore i suggest a total reform of our laws . May God help us.

    1. Reply

      Hmmm. Those are strong accusations. Where do we go from here?

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