NIGERIA – The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), has warned Nigerians to shun frozen poultry products and other food items preserved with formalin which is considered carcinogenic.

NAFDAC’s spokesman, Dr Abubakar Jimoh, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that unscrupulous business people had been using formalin to preserve poultry products, chicken and turkey, in particular.

He warned that formalin is capable of preserving such products for weeks before they get to consumers. Formalin is a disinfectant widely used in mortuaries to preserve dead bodies and also in science laboratories to preserve specimens of dead animals.

“NAFDAC is alerting Nigerians about this practice. There are enough poultry products in the country than to resort to frozen chicken smuggled in, in spite of Nigerian government’s ban,’’ he said.

Dr Jimoh also called the attention of consumers to the economic impact of patronizing business people who smuggle poultry products into the country. He said if such patronage continued, indigenous poultry farmers and marketers would not grow as desired as money spent on smuggled products would only go to originators of the products.

He added that the patronage of imported or smuggled products would also continue to affect Nigeria’s foreign exchange reserves.

The Director-General of NAFDAC, Prof. Mojisola Christianah Adeyeye had earlier sounded an alarm on the same issue educing that the importation of poultry products like chicken had been banned. She however expressed concern that some unscrupulous business people still continue the practice of smuggling in frozen chicken from neighboring countries.

“When they smuggle it in, because they cannot go through the normal route, they have to go through illegal route. “So, a journey that should take them just one day, because they are passing through the bush path and no storage facility, they are forced to use Formalin to preserve the chicken. This is because they have to take three to four days before they can bring it to the market,” she explicated.

Effects of formalin

According to the United States Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), ingesting as little as 30 millilitres (ml) of the solution containing 37 per cent of formaldehyde is enough to kill an adult.

The high intake of formalin in the body through the continuous consumption of such products and food items preserved with formalin, and most of which are probably not well cooked, can lead to cancers of the blood (leukemia) and lymphatic system.

Dr Isaiah Okere, a meat scientist at the Institute of Agricultural Research and Training (IAR&T), Ibadan, enlightened that chicken preserved with formaldehyde/formalin could be easily identified as they were always stiff and odorless. He added that meat should never smell like bleach, ammonia or anything foul.

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