Following a statement by the Customs boss that Nigerians consuming foreign rice were eating an expired product that was only polished and re-bagged, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control has said it cannot vouch for the safety or wholesomeness of any food item smuggled into the country.
Hammed Ibrahim Ali had while inspecting Area I Command, Port Harcourt and Area II Command of the Nigeria Customs Service, Onne, Rivers State on Wednesday said the NCS must reach out to Nigerians through the media to make them realise the “deadly” effect of what they were consuming.
He said, “We are consuming expired foreign rice and when it causes cancer, we begin to look for who to blame. What they do is that they polish the rice, re-bag them for unsuspecting consumers. That is what we eat.”
But responding to Ali’s comment that some of the foreign rice brought into Nigeria had expired and were re-bagged for sale to Nigerians, the Director for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, NAFDAC, Mr Sheriff Olagunju, said on Thursday during an interview with one of our correspondents that “when a thing is smuggled, it means it has not passed through the regulated channels.”
He added, “That means we have not seen it. That is why we discourage people from consuming anything that we have not certified. So, anything that is smuggled, whether rice, chicken or anything, as long as NAFDAC has not evaluated it, we cannot vouch for the quality or safety of those products.”
When asked if there was expired rice in circulation as said by the Customs boss, the NAFDAC director said the agency would not be able to affirm or deny such unless evaluation had been done, adding that NAFDAC would not be able to make any sweeping statement without carrying out any test.
Olagunju added, “If anything is smuggled, it will not pass through NAFDAC. If it passes through the regular channel, we wouldn’t allow it to pass through if it is expired. However, we are all aware of the fact that borders are very porous, so we cannot rule out the possibility of some of these products slipping into the country.
“NAFDAC only makes pronouncements after scientific evaluation. So, we cannot comment on something that we have not evaluated. That is our position because everything we do at NAFDAC is based on science, not speculation.
“We cannot just say on the face of it that a thing is bad. Customs may have seen it but if we have not seen it, we cannot say this or that until we have done evaluation.”