As part of efforts to protect Nigerians from the hazards associated with consumption of substandard products, the Standards Organisation of Nigeria enforcement team has confiscated large consignments of suspected unfortified and substandard sugar and flour based products like pasta and spaghetti in the North East States of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe as well as Sokoto, Zamfara, Kebbi, Kano and Jigawa in the North West.
The operations which were carried out simultaneously in all the states, covered warehouses, stores, markets and trucks in transit following classified information from sister security agencies, patriotic Nigerians and the results of SON nationwide market surveillance activities.
A statement from the office of the Director General, Mr. Osita Aboloma in Abuja disclosed that SON has in recent times received consumer complaints on smuggling and circulation of large consignments of unfortified sugar and flour based products across the country.
These according to the Director General was in clear contravention of the country’s regulations on fortifying sugar, flour based products and vegetable oil with Vitamin A as specified in the Nigerian Industrial Standards for the products.
The regulation according to Mr. Aboloma was in order to protect Nigerians from Vitamin A deficiency which has been established as the leading cause of preventable childhood blindness.
He stated that, “about 250,000 to 500,000 malnourished children in the developing world go blind each year from a deficiency of Vitamin A, (VAD) while about half of them die within a year of becoming blind”.
The SON DG posited that VAD is said to contribute to maternal mortality and other poor outcomes in pregnancy and lactation, including diminishing the ability to fight infections, thus the regulation on Vitamin A fortification through food vehicles like sugar, flour and flour based products like pasta.
The seized products, he said, have been confirmed not to be registered as required by law, carrying misleading labelings, not fortified with Vitamin A, while many of the consignments were suspected to have been smuggled into the country for inability to provide necessary import documentation.
According to the SON Director of Operations, Engr. Felix Nyado who coordinated the nationwide raid, products including over 4 truck loads of unfortified and substandard Sugar, and 3 truck loads of unfortified, wrongly labeled and suspected substandard Flour and Pasta valued at about N23.5 million were confiscated across the 8 states of Sokoto, Zamfara, Kebbi, Kano, Jigawa, Adamawa, Borno and Yobe.
The suspected substandard, unfortified and wrongly labeled imported sugar include Nardini, Coplasca, Carolo, Arapora, USJ Ajoao, Usina Santa Isabel, Cooper and Copersucar, Acucar Crystal brands, while some of the flour based products apprehended were Oba Makarna and Selva Spaghetti, Chef’s Choice, riboca, Serina and Safina pasta; Spaghetti brands including Vega, Mavis, Gonca, Ricco, Baraka, Ranee, Amuncchi and Pastaricco among others.
He reiterated the determination of SON to sustain the nationwide mop up of all unfortified food products in circulation against the requirements of the Nigerian Industrial Standards wherever they are found, in the interest of the Nation, particularly children and mothers.
Engr. Nyado admonished product distributors, wholesalers and retailers to join the quality vanguard by avoiding stocking of substandard and injurious products in order to discourage the importers of such products.
A total of 10 suspects arrested during the exercises have been interrogated and are helping SON and the security agencies in their investigations, while samples of the seized products are being tested at SON internationally accredited food and micro nutrient laboratories in Lagos.