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Food Safety Alert: Traders Warned Against Using Pesticides on Dried Fish

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Food Safety Alert Traders Warned Against Using Pesticides on Dried Fish

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Food safety and health experts have warned food commodities traders, especially those selling dried fish against using insecticides and pesticides to stop flies from perching on them.

They described the act as a dangerous practice that may predispose consumers to health complications and in a worst-case scenario, instant death when consumed

Referencing rising cases of cancer and kidney diseases among Nigerians, the experts said they may not be unconnected to the consumption of food items heavily laced with dangerous contaminants like mycotoxins.

They noted that long exposure to such chemical compounds can damage vital organs in the body and may lead to poor treatment outcomes for those with underlying health conditions.

Some insecticides, which are synthetic organophosphorus that belong to the DDVP chemical family (2, 2-dicholorovinyl dimethyl phosphate compound), based on reports, are being indiscriminately used by some unscrupulous Nigerians.

Over the years, many vendors of uncooked food have been caught engaging in unhealthy practices to make huge gains.

Based on findings, it is not the only unsafe practice being perpetrated but has rather, become a menace.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with PUNCH Healthwise,  a Professor of Food Science and Technology, Bells University of Technology, Ota, Ogun State, Olugbenga Ogunmoyela,  said people should pay attention to what they eat, so as to reduce the risk of coming down with diseases.

The food scientist with over 40 years of experience in food technology, nutrition and processing, said it is dangerous to consume foods contaminated with chemicals and pesticides.

The professor, who is the President of the Society of Testing Laboratory Analysts of Nigeria, said, “Do you know that some people will kill fish and dip it in an insecticide solution? The moment they do that, flies can’t go near it.

“Fish sellers (fresh and dried) are doing it everywhere, and not only in our markets. In those days, they used Gammalin 20. When I was in Benue State, I noticed that it was a very common practice. Now, many fish sellers use insecticide solution and some even smoke dead fish for sale.”

He noted that besides the chemical contamination of these fishes by their handlers, many rivers have been contaminated with heavy metals that are injurious to health.

“Last year, we had a webinar on Aflatoxin levels in fish consumed in Nigeria. Many of the fishes that are out there contain mycotoxins because they are not dried with the right moisture and the right packaging materials are not used as well.

“So, those microorganisms build up in the product and the mycotoxins levels will also build up. The toxins produced can kill instantly. Don’t forget that many rivers contain contaminants like lead, mercury, and arsenic. These heavy metals can kill”, he added.

According to the World Health Organisation, Mycotoxins are toxic compounds that are naturally produced by certain types of moulds (fungi).

The WHO explained that moulds that can produce mycotoxins grow on numerous foodstuffs such as cereals, dried fruits, nuts and spices, adding that the growth can occur before harvest, after harvest, during storage, on or in the food itself, and often under warm, damp and humid conditions.

“Several hundred different mycotoxins have been identified, but the most commonly observed mycotoxins that present a concern to human health and livestock include aflatoxins, ochratoxin A, patulin, fumonisins, zearalenone and nivalenol/deoxynivalenol.

“The effects of some food-borne mycotoxins are acute with symptoms of severe illness appearing quickly after consumption of food products contaminated with mycotoxins.

“Other mycotoxins occurring in food have been linked to long-term effects on health, including the induction of cancers and immune deficiency. Of the several hundred mycotoxins identified so far, about a dozen have gained the most attention due to their severe effects on human health and their occurrences in food.

“Exposure to mycotoxins can happen either directly by eating infected food or indirectly from animals that are fed contaminated feed, in particular from milk,” WHO stated.

In 2021, the Director-General, National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control, Professor Mojisola Adeyeye, warned Nigerians against using poisonous chemicals like formalin, insecticide and others in food processing and preservation.

She warned that the misuse of chemicals in food products is capable of leading to many serious diseases and death, and said anyone arrested would face the full wrath of the law.

Formalin is a poisonous chemical popularly used to preserve corpses in mortuaries and according to the United States Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, 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 (leukaemia) and lymphatic system.

Professor Ogunmoyela, who is also the President and CEO of Consumer Advocacy for Food Safety and Nutrition Initiative, reiterated that consuming fish contaminated with chemicals will certainly have consequences on human health.

He said, “If you have an accumulation of toxins and they get into the liver, it can shut down your system. We have been seeing people dying unnecessarily. People should look at the quality of what they eat, where they are coming from and how safe they are. This should be the first consideration.

“Consumption of contaminated food after a long period can affect vital organs of the body. That is why we are seeing a lot of kidney, liver and cancer diseases.

“The environment itself is polluted. There are too many heavy metals around our waters.  By paying attention to what we eat, we can reduce the way we fall sick. “

Also speaking on the dangers of exposure to chemical-laden foods, a Consultant Endocrinologist and Physician at Lagos the University Teaching Hospital, Idi-Araba, Professor Olufemi Fasanmade, confirmed that the use of insecticide in food preservation has serious health implications.

The President of the Endocrinology and Metabolism Society of Nigeria said, “Insecticides, especially, sniper is deadly to any living thing and those that survive can suffer multi-organ failure.

“Insecticides are poisons used to kill pests and insects. It contains bifenthrin. Insecticide-treated food is deadly to everyone, whether young or old; hypertensive or diabetic.”

In a 2021 article published in an online journal, ResearchGate titled, “Preservative chemicals as a new health risk related to traditional medicine markets in western Africa”, the authors said sniper is an organophosphate insecticide that has been banned in the European Union and is classified as “highly hazardous” (class IB) by the World Health Organisation.

“Sniper contains Dichlorvos (DDVP), a molecule of acute toxicity if swallowed, inhaled, or in contact with skin, and possibly carcinogenic for humans.

“ With a probable lethal oral dose of 50–500 mg/kg, and an estimated half-life of 20–23 days as measured from treated wheat shipments, Sniper represents a serious threat to humans regularly in contact with the molecule”, the authors said.


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