The National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control NAFDAC has contradicted an earlier report by the Nigeria Customs Service, which claimed that a certain rice consignment impounded in a warehouse in Lagos was plastic rice imported from China.

The Federal Operations Unit Zone A, Lagos, of the service, which earlier denied earlier reports of importation of plastic rice consignments into the country had later told newsmen during a media briefing that it has intercepted and seized a consignment of plastic rice in a warehouse somewhere in the Isolo area of Lagos.

The acting Director General of NAFDAC, Mrs. Yetunde Oni, who gave the report of the final laboratory test carried out on the consignment, said that the product branded as ‘Best Tomato’ and packed in 25kg bag is not plastic but was contaminated with microorganisms above permissible limit, which makes it unsatisfactory, unwholesome and therefore unfit for human consumption,

She said: “Based on the laboratory result, the product is not plastic but rice contaminated with microorganisms above permissible limit, hence the seized rice consignment is unsatisfactory and therefore unwholesome for human consumption”.

The total absence of vital information such as NAFDAC numbers, batch numbers, date markings and details of the manufacturer, heightened the suspicion of the operatives of the service, which led to its seizure.

Details of the laboratory test shows that the floating rate of the product was negative while its sedimentation was positive even as the cooking and odour was normal.

Other details show that the colour of the grain was off-white, its moisture level was 13 per cent, which is within specification even as its pre-ashing was normal, while the ash content was 0.6 per cent, which is within specification while lead and cadmium were not detected.

Also, the Aerobic mesophillic count was found to be above maximum limits                       (2.8×105 cfu), the mould was within content (- 5.1×103 cfu), the coil form was above maximum content (7.5×103 cfu) even as the E-coli was within specification (<3cfu).

The report also says that the packaging does not conform to NAFDAC Pre-Packaging, Food Labeling Regulations of 2005.  

The NAFDAC-boss, who expressed her appreciation to the Customs management, for alerting the agency of the seizure, however appealed to the general public to report any suspicious case concerning all NAFDAC regulated products including rice to any of its offices across the nation for prompt regulatory action, while calling for continued support and cooperation of all Nigerians by teaming up with the agency in its concerted efforts to deliver on mandate of safeguarding the health of Nigerians.  

It was also gathered that following the report of the seizure of the suspected fake rice by Customs, the agency swung into action by sending team of inspectors to the FOU office of the service to draw samples from the seized consignment for laboratory analysis.

Investigations show that NAFDAC had transmitted the preliminary result of the analysis to the Minister for Health, Professor Isaac Adewole before it was made public while waiting for the comprehensive result.

Comptroller General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ali, who also commented on the outcome of the final analysis, said that the service had to liaise with the agency that has the statutory powers to examine such consignments in line with its commitment to inter-agency cooperation.

He said: “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.

The Customs boss however assured that the service would not relent in its efforts at enforcing the nation’s fiscal policies as well as checking smuggling of unwholesome and substandard goods into the country.