Deadly Noodles: NAFDAC Extends Probe To Other Brands, Experts Allay Fears

In Breaking News, Health

By Lara Adejoro, Punch Newspaper

Lara Adejoro reports the latest development, including experts’ opinions on the Indomie Special Chicken Flavour cancer scare

The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control in Nigeria has followed up on the ongoing investigations of the ‘Special Chicken Flavour’ Indomie Instant Noodles which the Malaysian and Taiwan governments have flagged as carcinogenic.

The agency insists the locally produced brands of the noodles do not include ‘Special Chicken Flavour’, and its importation has remained banned for years.

Though many believe that some crooked individuals can still attempt to bring them into the country, the nation’s drug and food regulator said it had been alive to her responsibilities of safeguarding the health of the public.

“What we are doing is an extra caution to ensure that the product is not smuggled in and if so, our post-marketing surveillance would detect it. We also want to be sure that the spices used for the Indomie and other noodles in Nigeria are tested. That is what NAFDAC Food Safety and Applied Nutrition and Post Marketing Surveillance are doing this week at the production facilities and in the market respectively.”

Four medical experts also affirm that there is no need for Nigerians to distrust NAFDAC.

According to them, NAFDAC has been on the front burner in the exportation of regulated products and issuing quality certification for such regulated products.

A Professor of Public Health at the University of Ilorin and former National Chairman of the Association of Public Health Physicians of Nigeria, Tanimola Akande, said “NAFDAC has publicly informed Nigerians that Nigeria is not at risk. Such a statement must have followed their own assessment of the Indomie product made in Nigeria.

“Such ordinarily should convince Nigerians that they are not at risk. It is desirable for NAFDAC to further ensure that indomie from Taiwan and Malaysia is not in the Nigerian market imported appropriately or smuggled into the country.

“There is a need for NAFDAC to do further active surveillance to ensure Indomie products from Taiwan and Malaysia are not in Nigeria. With these steps, Nigerians will be convinced that NAFDAC has done all they need to do to keep Nigerians from the risk of cancer from Indomie imported into Nigeria from Taiwan and Malaysia if any.”

Also, the Director General and Chief Executive Officer of the National Institute for Cancer Research and consumption of the ‘special chicken flavor’ Indomie instant noodles.

“We will further collaborate with NAFDAC in ensuring the safety and protection of Nigerians from cancer-causing agents,” Aliyu said.

A public health physician, Dr Oladapo Asiyanbi urged Nigerians to trust the expertise of NAFDAC since it has cleared the air on the product.

Dr. Asiyanbi said, “The steps NAFDAC has taken to explain the reasons why locally-made indomie is safe for consumption and why Nigeria is not at risk of the implicated indomie should suffice. We should not undermine our system with speculation and hearsay but facts.”

Another public health physician and President of the Nigerian Cancer Society, Dr. Adamu Umar affirmed that the noodles consumed in Nigeria are made in the country.

“As we know now that the indomie that many of us consume is made in Nigeria and has no known cause to have the carcinogenic agent. But as NAFDAC said, they will still re-evaluate the substances used in the seasoning for the locally-made indomie. We assure Nigerians to remain calm and be responsive to instructions from official channels like NAFDAC and NICRAT, not social media,” Dr. Umar said.

On its position on the ongoing investigations, the manufacturer of Indomie instant noodles in Nigeria, Dufil Prima Foods Plc, said Nigerians have nothing to fear as there is no potentially cancer-causing substance in the Indomie instant noodles produced in the country.

Dufil Prima Foods said the noodles produced locally in Nigeria are under the strictest manufacturing processes that are constantly audited by government regulatory authorities from time to time.

The Group Corporate Communications and Event Manager of the company, Tope Ashiwaju, said, “We would like to assure our valued customers in Nigeria that all packs of Indomie Instant Noodles consumed in Nigeria are produced locally under strict international best manufacturing procedures with ISO-certified standards.

“Our commitment to international good manufacturing processes is unwavering and the quality in every pack of instant noodles produced in all our factories in Nigeria is non-negotiable.

“We adhere strictly to the standard procedures set by NAFDAC and the Standards Organization of Nigeria in all our manufacturing processes.

“We use only the finest ingredients, sourced from reputable suppliers, and our production facilities are regularly inspected and audited to ensure that they meet the highest standards.”

The Director General of NAFDAC, Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye assured that the Indomie instant noodles products and other brands of noodles registered by the agency for sale in the Nigerian market were safe for consumption.

Prof. Adeyeye said the agency was extending the investigation to other brands of instant noodles offered for sale to Nigerians.

She noted that the agency’s Food Safety and Applied Nutrition and Post Marketing Surveillance would investigate the production facilities and the market respectively.

“We use this medium to assure the public that a thorough investigation of the products will be conducted both at the factory and market levels and our findings will be communicated.”

She reiterated that the Indomie instant noodles products and other brands of noodles registered by the agency are granted NAFDAC registration status following a strict regulatory regime covering all aspects of Good Manufacturing Practice.

“The Ports Inspection Directorate is also on heightened alert to guard against the importation of the implicated product into Nigeria,” Adeyeye said.

Health officials in Malaysia and Taiwan recalled the “special chicken” flavor noodles saying they had detected a compound called ethylene oxide in the noodles. The implicated indomie flavor is produced by Indofood.

According to the National Cancer Institute, ethylene oxide is a flammable colorless gas with a sweet odor at room temperature. It is used primarily to produce other chemicals, including antifreeze.

“In smaller amounts, ethylene oxide is used as a pesticide and a sterilizing agent. The ability of ethylene oxide to damage DNA makes it an effective sterilizing agent but also accounts for its cancer-causing activity,” the NCI said.

Corroborating, NICRAT said its in-depth review of ethylene oxide indicated that it is a highly reactive chemical that is used as a raw material to make other compounds such as glycol ethers, and polyglycerol ethers, as well as a range of emulsifiers, detergents, and solvents

NICRAT also said there is sufficient evidence in experimental animals for the carcinogenicity of ethylene oxide, and there is strong evidence that the carcinogenicity of ethylene oxide, a direct-acting alkylating agent, operates by a genotoxic mechanism.

The maker of the Indomie flavor, Indofood, however, denied the allegations claiming its noodles are produced with standard certification.

Indofood said all instant noodles produced by the ICBP in Indonesia were processed in compliance with the food safety standards from the Codex Standard for instant noodles and standards set by the Indonesian National Agency for Drug and Food Control.

“ICBP has exported instant noodles to various countries around the world for more than 30 years.

“The company continuously ensures that all of its products are in compliance with the applicable food safety regulations and guidelines in Indonesia as well as other countries where the ICBP’s instant noodles are marketed,” a press statement by Indofood read in part.

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