Unless you prepared it yourself, it is almost certain that the last palm oil you bought, or the one you intend to buy, contains the dangerous Sudan IV dye. As has been known over a decade now, and recently made public by the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA), Sudan IV is a Carcinogen; meaning it is linked to occurrences of cancer. What must also be said is that, Sudan IV is also a genotoxin – meaning that its effect is not limited to cancers in the eater but also it can alter your DNA and thus affect your offspring as well.
The issue of the dye surfaced earlier in April this year when the UK’s Food Standards Agency (FSA) discovered it in some palm oil imported from Ghana into that country; particularly in the London Area. The FSA took the decisive step of ensuring that all imports of the said oil and those on retail wherever reported were confiscated and destroyed. It ordered its citizens not to eat this oil in instances where it has already been purchased.
It therefore came as no surprise when the FDA’s report revealed an almost absolute presence of the dangerous die in palm oil being sold on our markets in Accra. While the FDA’s test results reveal that 49 out of their 50 samples contained the dangerous dye, they seem to be assuming a cautioning posture instead of a decisive and authoritative one. While the FDA may be respecting the choice of the consumer, it is instructive that we assume the ‘better safe than sorry’ approach in dealing with this matter. Citizens should not be left with the option to endanger their health when the facts are clearly established. Because a cancer infested nation will lead to a heavy toll on the national health budget; and as a result a collective burden for one and all.
According to the Food Safety Regulations Report of 1995, Sudan IV has been declared unsafe and an illegal food additive. As such, the issue on our hands is one of criminality. Therefore the FDA cannot hope that the CID and the Police Service apprehend palm oil purveyors who indulge in the use of this illegal food additive – as expressed by their PRO on Joy FM’s morning show. They must be decisive and precise on their approach on the matter.
In the coming days, one would want to see several barrels of palm oil being confiscated from our local markets and destroyed publicly. We must see apprehension of people involved in this illicit act which has rather deadly effects on the general population. An exacting display of abhorrence for this practice will send a clear message out to all those involved or who intend to engage in this treacherous practice.
The FDA cannot assume a passive attitude in this matter. Rather, they must be at the forefront and constitute a task force with the help of the police and other security agencies to engage in a “Palm Oil Stock Cleaning Exercise”; until Sudan IV contaminated oils are cleaned off our markets to an exhaustive extent. This must be followed with regular random checks to ensure that the practice does not creep in subsequently when the cleaning exercise is brought to an end.
While the FDA advises that we should make sure we have confidence in our source of palm oil, I will state that everybody stays off palm oil being sold on the market – until we see decisive action from the FDA and their subsequent information that all is clear.
While this incidence regards only one product, it is instructive that the FDA establishes a baseline procedure by which to regulate food items sold on our local markets. That the prospect of doing this is daunting is not enough excuse for them to give up entirely on this mandate. Otherwise, their efforts to regulate food safety on supermarket shelves and in restaurants will be entirely negated by the lack of regulation on the local markets. Our taxes are not paid to support them to only follow conventional practice, but also to be creative and innovative where need be.
Meanwhile, if you have bought some palm oil lately from the market, dispose of it, just don’t eat it.