Local manufacturers of tomato paste and purée, yesterday told the House of Representatives Committees on Healthcare Services and Drugs and Narcotics,that about 91 percent of tomato paste imported into the country are sub-standard.
Speaking at the one-day investigative hearing on the Importation of Fake, Sub-standard and Cancer Causing Tomato Paste into Nigeria, representatives of Nigeria’s top processing companies, Erisco Foods Limited, Dangote Tomato Processing Company Kano and Savannah Foods, listed China and India to be the source of these products.
Chief Executive Officer Of Ericso Foods Limited, Eric Umeofia, who led the presentation of local manufacturers, stressed that his company has lost three billion naira in the last one and half years owing to the flooding of Nigerian market with dangerous, fake tomato paste.
Umeofia referred to an internal memo dated February 10, 2015 to the Director-General of the National Agency for Food, Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC), by the director of Food Safety and Applied Nutrition Safety department, listing cancer, diabetes, kidney failure as some of the negative health effects that can be caused by the consumption of 91 percent of tomato paste products sold in Lagos.
“I have lost more than three billion as a local manufacturer. The regulators have failed in carrying out their duties. I was frustrated and was about closing up and going to other countries where I have interests. But President Muhammadu Buhari came in and assured manufacturers of his support, asking us to go ahead with what we are doing”, he said.
Also referring to the NAFDAC memo, Managing -Director of Dangote Tomato Processing Company, Abdulkarim Kaita and Chief Executive Officer of Savannah Foods, Abdullahi Ringim, called for a ban of products found to be sub-standard and injurious to health.
But querying the allegations made by the manufacturers, NAFDAC, Director of Planning, Research and Statistics, Samson Adebayo, asked that they produce anyone whose death was traced to the consumptionof imported tomato paste.
Adebayo insisted that not only was the survey restricted to Lagos, it would be wrong to ban any product based on a single study. He further accused the manufacturers of seeking the ban of imported products to create demand for their brands as according to him , the official survey of the agency showed that only 30 percent of products failed to meet set standards.
Earlier in his welcome address, Chairman of the Committee on Healthcare Services, Chike Okafor (APC-Imo) assured that the investigations of the House include the testing of products. This as he disclosed that the joint committee will visit suppliers in China, India and the United States where majority of importers procure tomato concrete for production.
Okafor equally stated that a full list of the products that fail the tests to be conducted by the House will be published in the media.