Public Agenda (Accra)

1 September 2008

Ghana: Food Adulteration On the Rise in Ghana

Accra — Food researchers have warned that adulterants added to food are injurious to human health and urged consumers to report any unusual changes in their food to the Food and Drugs Board (FDB).

A survey conducted by FDB and the Food Research Institute (FRI) of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) showed that various substances were added to various foods by those who prepared them and warned that this was an offence and liable to imprisonment.

Mrs. Isabella Mansa Agra, Head of Food Registration and Nutrition of the FDB, in a document copied to the Ghana News Agency, said food adulteration was on the increase and common in Ghanaian urban markets with the perpetrators playing on the ignorance of innocent buyers.

She said the survey revealed that alum and chalk were added to bread to whiten it, while for stale flour, ammonium carbonate was added to disguise its sour taste. Mashed potatoes, sawdust and Plaster of Paris were also added to increase the weight of the bread.

Mrs Agra noted that food dyes, colours and miscellaneous compounds were added to food to impart certain properties to disguise deteriorated or spoiled food and give an idea of freshness.

The study, conducted in eight regions, sought to provide some leads for the relevant authorities to work with.

It indicated that saccharine was also added to maize porridge, sugar bread and doughnuts to sweeten the taste of the products whilst cassava flour, roasted maize meal, maize flour, dried, grinded pear seed, cooking oil, water and fresh cassava chips were added to groundnut paste to increase its weight.

The regions selected for the study were Greater Accra, Volta, Eastern, Central, Brong Ahafo Western, Northern and Ashanti.

Food adulteration is an act of adding or mixing something inferior, harmful, useless and unnecessary to food.

It is intended to reduce manufacturing cost, increase bulk or weight, make it appear better and conceal inferiority.

Mrs Agra noted that maize flour, milled fresh groundnuts, gari and wheat flour were added to grinded agushie to increase its weight and this act was common in Eastern, Northern, Western, Central and Greater Accra regions.

For fruits and vegetables, bixa, pear seeds and discarded kola nuts were found in ground pepper and fresh tomatoes before it is grinded whilst wood ash was also found in dried okro powder.

Meat, poultry, fish and shrimps were not left out. Bixa seeds are also used for grilled meat popularly known as khebab and fried turkey tails and these were common in the Central and Greater Accra regions.

For fat and oils like palm oil, dzomi, coconut oil, groundnut oil and soyabean oil; palm kernel oils, Sudan Dyes, were added and these were found in Greater Accra, Volta, Eastern, Ashanti, Central and Western regions.

"It is also shocking to know that beverages like palm wine and pito are also adulterated and surprisingly, for palm wine, water, sugar, saccharine, miracle berry monosodium glutamate, baking soda and tobacco leaves were added to sweeten them."

Tobacco leaves and marijuana were also found in pito to enhance its stimulant effects.

For miscellaneous foods, sugar, honey, baking powder, curry powder, soups and stews, water, caramel, wheat flour, granulated salt, maize flour and bixa seeds were added to enhance their sweetness.

Mrs Agra explained that the adulterants such as saccharine and aspartame could cause cancer whilst monosodium glutamate used in soups, stews and meat could damage the brain, cause mental retardation in infants and other food flavours also had the chance of causing cancer of the liver.

Cola nuts, cassava flour and Sudan dyes used in pepper, groundnut paste and palm oil could increase anxiety and nervousness at high doses, decrease nutritive value of products and cause cancer.

"Potassium bromate (E924) used in bread has the chance of causing cancer and nitrate used in tendering meat and beans could cause cancer and tumours in the liver, kidney, trachea oesophagus and lungs," she added.

Mrs Agra cautioned that the Food and Drugs law prohibited the sale of unwholesome, poisonous or adulterated food and any person found violating the law would be punished. GNA

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