The federal government through NAFDAC and the Nigeria Customs Service has said that contrary to widely held views, the container loads of alleged plastic rice imported into the country and seized by the Nigerian Customs undergone forensic analysis and tests and found not to be plastic.
Rather, it said what was imported into the country and seized was contaminated rice.
Acting DG of NAFDAC, Mrs. Yetunde Oni who made the disclosure in Abuja said, “Based on the Laboratory result of the items seized, the product is not plastic but rice contaminated with micro-organisms above permissible limit.
This she said made the seized rice consignment unsatisfactory and therefore unwholesome for human consumption”.
She said, “Following the report of the seizure of the “suspected fake rice”, by men of Nigeria Customs Service, the Agency swung into action by sending team of inspectors to the office of the Customs Area Comptroller, Federal Operations Ikeja, Lagos to draw samples from the seized consignment for Laboratory analysis.
“The product, branded as “Best Tomato” was in 25kg pack size, without NAFDAC number, no batch number, no date markings and no details of the manufacturer.
“The preliminary result of the analysis was conveyed to the Minister for Health, Prof Isaac F. Adewole and was made public on 22nd December, 2016 whilst awaiting the comprehensive result.
“I hereby this day the 29th December 2016 present the full Laboratory report as follows: Floating – Negative; Sedimentation – Positive; Cooking. – Normal; Odour. – Normal and Colour. – Off-white grains.
Other results are Moisture. – 13% (within specification); Pre-ashing. – Normal; Ash. – 0.6% (within specification); Lead and Cadmium – Not detected; Aerobic mesophillic count – 2.8×105 cfu (above maximum limits); Mould – 5.1×103 cfu – (within specification); Coli form – 7.5×103 cfu (above maximum limits); E-coli. – <3cfu (within specification) ; Packaging. – Does not conform to NAFDAC pre – packaging Food labeling regulations 2005
On his part, the Customs CG, Hameed Ali said the Customs action in seizing the contaminated rice was based on an earlier intelligence received from Office of the National Security Adviser, alerted that large consignments of plasticized rice were said to be shipped from the Far East to Africa.
“As the largest market for imported rice in Africa, Customs took the alert seriously and charged Officers to watch out for such imports that do not conform to regulatory requirements.
“When the consignments of Rice in question were brought to Customs Warehouse, our apprehension became heightened when we observed glaring lapses in the packaging. The bags of Rice had no NAFDAC Number, batch number, manufacturing or expiry dates.
“We could also not see any detail about the manufacturers on the bag. We were left with no option than escalating our findings to the Agency that is statutorily charged with the responsibility of confirming the true status of the import.
“As required by the law, officials of NAFDAC were invited to draw samples for laboratory analysis. However as we know how social media works in our clime, the outcome we are about to hear today was pre-empted.
“Irrespective of the outcome of the laboratory analysis, Customs will remain vigilant and alive to its responsibilities. We are still guided by the intelligence we have which indicate that several metric tonnes of expired and dangerous rice are still lying in wait at warehouses in neighboring Countries.
“The target of these products is Nigerian markets. We will therefore intensify our patrols to ensure that economic saboteurs do not succeed. We will urge Warehouse owners across the country not to accept such smuggled products in their facilities.
“We enjoin transporters to reject moving such products as under the law, both smuggled products and the means of conveyance are liable to seizure. We will rely on the synergy with NAFDAC and other Agencies of Government to ensure that only rice that is certified fit for human consumption is allowed on our shores.
“We also like to use this medium to commend the determination of Nigerian Rice Producers who have taken the challenge of addressing the rice sufficiency gap very seriously.
“We commend the various State Governments whose decisive interventions have led to the present bumper harvest of local Rice.
“While this may lead to significant revenue reduction for Customs in the short run, the multiplier effects of increased local production of Rice in terms of job creation in the value chain will benefit the economy in the long run.
“Once again, we want to commend the Acting Director-General of NAFDAC, Mrs. Yetunde Oni for this partnership. We appreciate the dispatch with which the laboratory analysis is being handled, so that we can quickly address this topical issue.”