Some health experts on Friday decried the use of unwholesome raw materials in the production of foods, beverages, drinks, drugs and related products, saying they had high negative health implications.
They spoke against the backdrop of the N1 billion administrative charges fined Guinness Nigeria Plc for “various clandestine violations” by the National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC).
The Investigation and Enforcement Directorate of NAFDAC had on November 9, written a letter on “Payment of Administrative Charges for Various Clandestine Violations” to the Managing Director of Guinness Nigeria Plc.
The agency said the company had been involved in clandestine violations contrary to the rules, regulations and enactments of NAFDAC and consequently fined Guinness N1 billion.
The fine was for administrative charges for all the destruction activities carried out by the company without authorisation and supervision of NAFDAC.
The letter said that some of the regulatory infractions included “all the revalidation activities of expired products without authorisation and supervision of the agency.
“Failure to secure the gates of the warehouse as it is permanently opened to intrusion and exposure to the elements and rodents which invariably affect the integrity of Guinness’ raw materials.
“Poor documentation record and noncompliance with conditions contained in the certificate of the re-validated Malt Extract which requires the storage of the items in cool and dry place and elimination of exposure to sunlight.”
In view of the above, NAFDAC then mandated Guiness to take some actions which included disclosure of all warehouses in the country and submission of inventory level of the stock.
Other actions included the submission of a written voluntary consent of forfeiture for destruction of the expired and re-validated raw materials discovered in the warehouse.
Submission of a notarized undertaking to comply with all the guidelines, rules, regulations and enactments of the agency and to refrain from any future violations.
Dr Oladoyin Odubanjo, a public health expert, said that is was disastrous for anyone or a company to use expired or materials that were not properly stored to make products for consumption.
According to Odubanjo, who is also the President, Association of Public Health Physicians of Nigeria (APHPN), Lagos State Chapter, such an act can lead to grave diseases.
He said: “When items especially foods or raw materials for consumable goods are not properly stored, they are exposed to all kinds of agents such as dust, rodents and animals.
“These agents themselves are harmful because they also carry most diseases that are dangerous to man.
“The raw materials themselves, when they are expired or not stored well, they can gradually break down into other chemical components and transform to harmful compounds.
Odubanjo explained that having Expiration, Best Before or Due Dates on products were for very significant purposes.
“There are vital reasons for having production and expiration dates on products.
“The dates are advices as to when the items are most effective; it shows that the item may not be as effective after the said date and in the case of drugs, it might be risky when taken.
“For food, expiration date has to be adhered to as non-adherence is dangerous; the expiry date means that the safety of the food is no longer guaranteed after that day.
“There are types of dates and they refer to when the quality and taste of a product is at its best and when it is safest to use before they turn bad or degrade to a lower quality.
He urged Nigerians to be sensitive to the way they handled and consumed foods as careless handling could lead to food poisoning, diarrhea, typhoid fever, cancer, skin reactions and other infections.
Odubanjo also pressed on regulatory agencies to be active in the discharge of their duties to curb the excesses of some manufacturers who may want to take advantage of the lapses.
Also, Mrs Olanike Ogunye, a laboratory scientist, said that expired products had to do with microbiolage growth presences such as chytridum species and fungus which were very deadly.
She said that in extreme cases, the effects of taking in expired products would start to manifest within few hours of consumption.
According to her, some of the health implications of consuming expired foods, beverages , drinks and drugs included abdominal discomfort, cramps, diarrhoea, fever and stooling.
“It can also lead to death and shock due to the toxins of the microbes.”
Ogunye encouraged all control agencies to check all products before certifying the manufacturers.
A source from NAFDAC who preferred to remain anonymous restated that NAFDAC would continue to be committed to safeguarding public health.
The source said the agency was ensuring that only the quality drugs, food and products were manufactured, imported and circulated in Nigeria.
He said: “NAFDAC cannot immediately say anything on the fine on Guinness because the story did not emanate from us.
“The Investigation and Enforcement Directorate of NAFDAC has carried out their investigations, we have also gone on site to inspect the warehouse in question and discovered acts that are in violation to our mandate.
“Based on our findings and the laws governing NAFDAC, Guinness Nigeria Plc has been fined for those infractions and they are expected to comply within two weeks of receipt of the letter sent to them.
“Their compliance or noncompliance will determine the next line of action.
“We at NAFDAC will ensure that we fulfill our vision and mission to ensure that we safeguard the health and safety of all Nigerians,” the source said.
An investigation by NAN revealed that the packs of most of the raw material products in the warehouse inspected by NAFDAC were covered by dust and some of the packs of sugar were torn and open.
Some blue barrels of the Malt Extract had expired best before/due dates of 04/2015 and 06/2015, while some barrels had white papers on them with an “extend to’’ dates that were not approved by NAFDAC.
In reaction to the incident, the management of Guinness Nigeria Plc issued a statement on Friday.
“The management of Guinness Nigeria does not fully understand the basis for the computation of the administrative charges nor the particular regulations alleged to have been infringed, and is currently in discussions with NAFDAC.
“This is with a view to gaining better clarity on the issue and hopefully have it resolved,” the statement said.
“Guinness has operated in Nigeria for over 65 years and has conducted its business in accordance with all relevant laws and regulations in Nigeria and Diageo’s global policies and procedures relating to good manufacturing practice.
“We remain committed to working with NAFDAC and other regulatory authorities.
“This is in furtherance of our responsibility to produce and market quality products and look forward to being able to resolve the issue working in partnership with NAFDAC,” the statement said.