Last Wednesday, the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) shut Panda Supermarket, Jabi, Abuja. The supermarket, which sold pastries, baby products, drinks and seafood, among other products, was shut down after an inspection by the commission.
It was alleged that the outfit stocked expired products, and illegally imported seafood and animals from China, which is battling with the deadly coronavirus.
It was also alleged that the expiry date on some of the items indicated they may not have been certified by the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC).
In a series of tweet, the agency said: “Happening now: FCCPC carries out unscheduled spot check on a concealed food store within Panda Supermarket, Jabi, Abuja. Discoveries so far include products with 2089, 2037, 2018, 2019 expiry dates etc.
“FCCPC inspected Panda Supermarket, Jabi, on credible reports that it discriminated and had a concealed area for Asian nationals. Allegation confirmed, seafood and animals imported illegally from China were discovered.
“Store closed in abundance of caution considering coronavirus. Products with expired and irregular shelf life were also discovered at Panda. Regulatory activities to remove all offensive products from the supermarket continues.”
The head of the FCCPC, Babatunde Irukera, said: “The operatives of the place admitted that those things were imported from China. Our suspicion is not whether those products we saw there are host carriers of the virus, but it was more of the fact that…is there a potential for a risk?
“We’ve identified some locations in Lagos that we would also be reaching to try and stop the supply of these products.”
But for the intervention of the FCCPC, who knows what would have been the fate of patrons?
Not long ago, police busted a gang in Saudi Arabia involved in making fake honey with used engine oil. After mixing black engine oil with chemicals, sweeteners, fragrances and emulsifiers, the stuff was packaged and sent to the market as “original honey.” Nigeria could be one of the destinations. People who consume the “original honey” end up in hospital or the grave.
A few days ago, NAFDAC advised Nigerians to exercise patience and properly scrutinize all products and items before buying, especially from roadside hawkers.
The advise was given by NAFDAC’s director of public affairs, Dr. Jimoh Abubakar, following complaints by some Abuja residents that some products being sold had expired.
He, therefore, urged consumers to check the expiry date, NAFDAC registration number, date of manufacture, packaging and freshness of products before buying, particularly edible items.
On the allegations that some big stores sold expired products at reduced prices in the name of promo, he noted that it was the practice in some developed countries to reduce prices during festive periods to increase sales and reward customers.
“I know Nigeria is also trying to emulate such countries as some companies and supermarkets sell some of their products at giveaway prices to clear stocks and create space for new goods for the year.
“The giveaway prices could be marketing strategy and not because the products have expired,” he said.
War without end
Although NAFDAC has been waging war against fake, adulterated, counterfeit, substandard and/or unwholesome products since it was established, investigation showed that the unscrupulous manufacturers and dealers of offensive products are still doing business.
While the agency has been confiscating and destroying offensive products across the country worth billions of naira, the merchants of death are not letting go. They alter expiry dates of products even as they import or manufacture products with appalling quality.
A victim said: “I was having this splitting headache, body pain and feeling feverish. I walked into a pharmacy in Abeokuta and bought paracetamol, anti-malaria drug and multivitamins.
“I immediately started using the drugs. It was my friend that saw that the date on the paracetamol and multivitamin drug had expired. We went back to the pharmacy but the pharmacist said he would only change the drugs, not refund my money. But I was adamant as I no longer trusted the pharmacy.”
It was also learnt that some outlets try to convince some vigilant customers who notice that their products have expired to buy them. For instance, when Ajayi, a patient, noticed that he was being treated with an expired injection solvent at a specialist hospital in Kogi State, he was persuaded that though the drug expired two months, there was nothing to worry about.
Explaining that he had taken the injection for three days before noticing that it had expired, Ajayi said: “It was then that I discovered that the product had expired. I complained, but the hospital told me that when a product expires, it can still be used within six months after the expiration date.
But according to the World Health Organisation, “it is recommended not to use expired drugs at all. Pharmaceutical products may lose their potency in the degradation process. Physical changes may also lead to reduced absorption, rendering the product less effective. The manufacturer of a pharmaceutical product can only be held responsible for any harmful effect of the product within its shelf life and only if the product was transported and stored under conditions recommended by the manufacturer.”
For the Food and Drug Administration, “certain expired medications are at risk of bacterial growth and sub-potent antibiotics can fail to treat infections, leading to more serious illnesses and antibiotic resistance.”
The NAFDAC spokesperson said: “Over the years, NAFDAC has done its best to curtail it. We are working and trying to stem the tide. We are approaching it from the enforcement terms, we seize, arrest peddlers and sometimes we take them to court.”
It is not only expired food, beverages and drugs that are being circulated. Other expired products such as shoes, polish, clothes, artificial hair and bags, among many others, are also being sold even in some “reputable” supermarkets.
“Last December, I went to a big supermarket at Ikotun area of Lagos and bought things for my family. I spent over N100,000 there but at the end of the day it was money wasted. Few days after my family started using the things we bought, we discovered that most of them were either expired or substandard. Shoes and bags were peeling off. Some of the clothes had no buttons. As my son walked towards the car, one of the soles of his shoe pulled off. I was shocked,” Mr. Monday Obinna, a civil servant, lamented.
Meat of death
Abattoirs and meat markets are also spreading disease and death. So, as Lassa fever ravages the country, a public affairs analyst warned: “For those that buy meat in the market or patronize abattoirs, just be careful and ensure that you wash and cook the meat properly. The tables on which the meat is placed and cut are hardly washed or cleaned and even if the butchers do, they do it with just water without disinfectants.
“So, at night, rats and all sorts of rodents play, urinate and defecate on those tables. Lassa fever is around the corner and the confidence with which it is breaking boundaries and marching into different states, we need to activate personal bio-security. It is the season of rats, snakes and scorpions, so ensure you do not encourage these creatures in anyway. They are not your friends.”
Perhaps, in response to the above, some meat sellers resorted to using vamalin, the chemical used to preserve dead bodies in preserving meat, as they keep flies away. The danger is enormous.
Someone said: “After my friend’s wife lost a baby through miscarriage, an investigation showed the presence of vamalin in her blood. When consumed, vamalin goes to the liver and destroys it. Please, people of God, this is serious. When you go to buy meat, go to a butcher that has flies around. Use this as the only way to confirm that there is no vamalin present. If the meat is without flies, what is keeping them away is vamalin. Be warned.”
As survival becomes more difficult with each passing day, some people have come up with a “clever” idea to save time and kerosene/gas when cooking. According to a report, “for many households and restaurants, using paracetamol is the fastest way to prepare meat. It saves gas, kerosene or firewood. And costs much less, N50 for one sachet of 12 tablets, and each tablet can cause a pot-full of meat to cook soft within few minutes. It’s an amazing discovery, or so it seems. But what they don’t know is that as much as they are quickening the amount of time it takes to cook, they are also quickening their days on earth.”
Experts say those eating meat prepared with analgesic are dying slowly because, when cooked, it destroys the kidney or liver.
“When paracetamol is used in cooking, it loses the pain killer property and becomes highly acidic and dangerous for human consumption,” the report said.
Perhaps, this is one of the reasons kidneys are packing up in Nigeria, just like that, as late Afrobeat deity, Fela Anikulapo, would say.
It was gathered that more than 100,000 cases of kidney disease are recorded per year in Nigeria.
Country of men without testes
At a conference in Abuja last November, a leading neuroscientist, Professor Philip Njemanze, said that the Bt Cowpeas, commonly known as beans, commercially released in Nigeria by the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) poses a grave health risk and is a major national security concern. He, therefore, recommended that the Federal Government must enforce a total ban of genetically modified organisms (GMO) crops in Nigeria. He even advised the FCCPC to institute class action against Monsanto for injury to the poor.
Njemanze, who is the chairman, International Institute of Advanced Research and Training, and Medical Director, Chidicon Medical Centre, Owerri, Imo State, said: “GMO foods shrink the testis and cause infertility in men. It is expected that, should Nigerians consume Bt Cowpeas or beans released with other GMO foods, over half of Nigerian men could become infertile.”
He added that since cowpeas or beans are exported from Nigeria to other African countries and to Europe, this could easily become a worldwide problem, if allowed to go on.
At the conference, it was further revealed that one out of every three Nigerian children born to a mother who was fed on GMO foods such as Bt Cowpeas would develop severe intrauterine growth retardation.
He said: “The genetically modified Bt Cowpeas incorporates a protein Cry 1 Ab, which is a pesticide against pod borer (Maruca). In other words, just like your home insecticide, instead of being spread directly against mosquitoes, you are told to drink it so that anytime you are bitten by mosquitoes they will suck your blood with the insecticide in it, which will eventually kill them. However, the scientific evidence shows that the insecticide and in this case pesticide (Bt toxin) will kill the person the same way it kills the pest.”
If Nigerians continue to consume GMO foods, about 75 per cent of the citizens will die of one form of cancer or the other by 2030.