NIGERIA – The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), has banned the registration of alcohol in sachet and small volume and glass bottles below 200 milliliters and above 30% alcohol by volume (ABV), in bid to reduce the availability and curb the abuse of alcohol in the country.

Nigerians consume alcoholic beverages of all sorts largely because the nation’s markets are littered with different kinds of alcoholic drinks. This situation has not been helped by the availability of assorted alcoholic drinks in sachets and small bottles in recent years.

This, experts say, is already fueling a surge in alcohol-related deaths, warning that Nigeria could have an explosion of health complications linked to alcohol abuse in coming years.

Curbing uncontrolled alcohol intake, especially among youth has, however, been difficult due to government’s failure to design a national policy to guide alcohol production and consumption.

“Uncontrolled access and availability of high concentration alcohol in sachets, and small volume PET or glass bottles has been put forward as a factor contributing to substance and alcohol abuse in Nigeria with its negative impact on the society,” said the Director-General of NAFDAC, Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye.

To this end, several interventions jointly agreed upon by major stakeholders are being undertaken and as a first step, no new products in sachet and small volume Poly-Ethylene Terephthalate (PET) or glass bottles above 30% ABV will be registered by NAFDAC

This comes almost 4 years later after a high-powered committee of the Federal Ministry of Health and NAFDAC, the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) and Industry represented by Association of Food, Beverages and Tobacco Employers (AFBTE), Distillers and Blenders Association of Nigeria (DIBAN) recommended the regulatory measures.

However, Adeyeye said that the agency will ensure that the validity of renewal of the already registered alcoholic products in the affected category will not exceed 2024.

She explained that manufacturers of low volume alcohol beverages (200ml) with satisfactory laboratory reports, which were already submitted to NAFDAC for registration before this decision, have been directed to reformulate their products to stipulated standards free of charge.

According to her, DIBAN was also given matching orders to embark on intensive nation-wide sensitization campaigns against underage consumption of alcohol by adolescents below the age of 18 years in the bid to stem the tide of alcohol abuse in the country.

The NAFDAC boss explained that the producers of alcohol in sachets and small volume had agreed to reduce production by 50% with effect from January 31, 2020, while ensuring the products are completely phased out in the country by January 31, 2024.

“Even as we grapple with the containment of COVID-19 pandemic, NAFDAC is resolutely committed to the strict implementation of the regulations and regulatory measures towards safeguarding the health of Nigerians particularly, the vulnerable youths, against the dangers of reckless consumption of alcohol,” Adeyeye said.

Troubling statistics

According to a 2018 global report from the World Health Organization (WHO), harmful alcohol consumption contributes to three million deaths each year globally. At least 62,172 alcohol-related deaths were recorded in 2016 in Nigeria. The WHO report captured liver cirrhosis, road traffic injuries, and cancer as major causes of these alcohol-related deaths.

Based on the WHO data, Nigeria was ranked the seventh African nation with a high death rate attributable to alcohol, coming closely behind Equatorial Guinea, Côte d’ Ivoire, Cameroon, Sierra Leone, Burundi, and Burkina Faso.

The alarming death rate also corroborates a statement from the Federal Road Safety Commission, attributing 90 per cent of road accidents in the country to alcoholic drinks and hard drugs.

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