As has been known over a decade now, and recently made public by the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA), Sudan IV is a Carcinogen; meaning it is linked to occurrences of cancer.
What must also be said is that, Sudan IV is also a genotoxin – meaning that its effect is not limited to cancers in the eater but also it can alter your DNA and thus affect your offspring as well.
The issue of the dye surfaced earlier in April this year when the UK’s Food Standards Agency (FSA) discovered it in some palm oil imported from Ghana into that country; particularly in the London Area.
The FSA took the decisive step of ensuring that all imports of the said oil and those on retail wherever reported were confiscated and destroyed. It ordered its citizens not to eat this oil in instances where it has already been purchased.
It therefore came as no surprise when the FDA’s report revealed an almost absolute presence of the dangerous dye in palm oil being sold on our markets in Accra. While the FDA’s test results revealed that 49 out of their 50 samples contained the dangerous dye, they seem to be assuming a cautioning posture instead of a decisive and authoritative one.
Though the FDA may be respecting the choice of the consumer, it is instructive that we assume the ‘better safe than sorry’ approach in dealing with this matter. Citizens should not be left with the option to endanger their health when the facts are clearly established. Because a cancer infested nation will lead to a heavy toll on the national health budget; and as a result a collective burden for one and all.
According to the Food Safety Regulations Report of 1995, Sudan IV has been declared unsafe and an illegal food additive. As such, the issue on our hands is one of criminality. In that respect, we must laud the FDA for taking on the staff of duty to begin fishing out those involved in this dastardly practice.
That notwithstanding, the FDA cannot hope that the CID and the Police Service prosecute palm oil purveyors who have already been arrested in relation to this issue – as expressed by their PRO on Joy FM’s morning show. They must be decisive and precise on their approach on the matter. They must take the lead and follow the case to its conclusive end and ensure that these miscreants and many more of those yet to be apprehended are brought to book.
In the coming days, one would want to see several barrels of palm oil being confiscated from our local markets and destroyed publicly. We must see apprehension of people involved in this illicit act which has rather deadly effects on the general population. An exacting display of abhorrence for this practice will send a clear message out to all those involved or who intend to engage in this treacherous practice.
The FDA cannot assume a passive attitude in this matter. Rather, they must be at the forefront and constitute a task force with the help of the police and other security agencies to engage in a “Palm Oil Stock Cleaning Exercise”; until Sudan IV contaminated oils are cleaned off our markets to an exhaustive extent. This must be followed with regular random checks to ensure that the practice does not creep in subsequently when the cleaning exercise is brought to an end.
The argument can also be made that some genuine entrepreneurs have made massive investments into the palm oil business and as such, a wholesale onslaught on the enterprise may affect them unduly. To this group, I encourage them to liaise with the FDA. What can be done is that they can sponsor the process by which the FDA will test their products along the value chain till it reaches specific retailers.
The names, market locations and shed numbers of these select retailers can be published under the approval of the FDA to ensure that they do not lose their market due to some miscreants.
However, the FDA must still conduct random tests on samples on spot sale from these approved sellers from time to time. This is to ensure that purveyors with contaminated products do not sneak their hoard to be sold by approved dealers.
While the FDA advices that we should make sure we have confidence in our source of palm oil, I will state that everybody stays off palm oil being sold on the market – until we see decisive action from the FDA and their subsequent information that all is clear.
Though this incidence involves only one product, it is instructive that the FDA establishes a baseline procedure by which to regulate food items sold on our local markets. That the prospect of doing this is daunting is not enough excuse for them to give up entirely on this mandate.
Otherwise, their efforts to regulate food safety on supermarket shelves and in restaurants will be entirely negated by the lack of regulation on the local markets. Our taxes are not paid to support them to only follow conventional practice, but also to be creative and innovative where need be.
Meanwhile, if you have bought some palm oil lately from the market, dispose of it, just don’t eat it.
By: Jason Tutu.