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If I Were A Palm Oil Producer   
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Over the past few days, we all heard the shocking and not so shocking story of how palm oil is being adulterated in the country.

I say the news is not so shocking because I believe many people know that most things are adulterated in this country. However it is the substance used in the act and the potential impact it is likely to have on the health of Ghanaians that was most shocking.

I was initially startled that some of the retailers or producers use a textile dye called Sudan 1V. The more I thought about it, the more distraught I became and this surprise eventually turned into anger.

My anger was against many people.

Key amongst them are the vendors, some of whom admitted that the palm oil was adulterated to satisfy some customers who kept asking for red palm oil. I find this revelation amazing and difficult to absorb.

I have never seen blue Palm oil or white palm oil in my lifetime. I have seen different shades of the red and often most are predominantly dark red. So why were consumers asking for red palm oil. What do they need this so-called extra red oil for?

One thing I know is that when a Ghanaian tells you “everybody” is saying something you don’t have to take everybody to really mean everybody. It could be 10 people, 5, 50 or 100 or sometimes nobody. Our lack of research makes it easy for people to play with numbers without having any scientific representation at all in mind.

I was also angry at the producers who obviously are only focused on the production and marketing of their products and do not care about the state in which the oil gets to the final consumer. This is because unlike large industries, who are very strict with quality assurance and are interested in how their products get to the final consumer, the same cannot be said about small-scale oil producers. I am not sure how many petty producers follow up to find out if their products reach their consumers in a good state. But one question I need answers for is, do the perpetrators of this crime know the consequences of their actions?

I cannot hide the fact that I was also angry with both the Ministries of Health and Agriculture who have been passive critical stakeholders in this “’corrupted palm oil” saga. I wish these ministries will take active participation in the current discussions because of the impact this will have on both the palm oil industry and the overall health of Ghanaians.

According to sources, 80% of all palm oil producers are small-scale producers and anything that happens to the trade will impact the economy.

At a time when Ghana is working tirelessly to improve the economy, this cannot be ignored. Also, any activity that is likely to cause cancer or lead to a long-term health condition cannot be taken for granted. Could these incidents be partly responsible for the rise in cancer, kidney and liver diseases being reported in the country?

Finally, I was really upset with the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) because of their general approach to such issues in the country. In the first instance, I was amazed that random tests were done in only parts of Greater Accra region and not the entire country. This lack of a nationwide sampling cannot be blamed on finances; it should be blamed on lack of proactivity and strategic planning.

Is it not surprising that the FDA only chose to do this random sampling because of the recent rejection of palm nut oil in the UK. If this had not happened would they have taken any action?

What I find amazing about the attitude of the FDA is that there are rumours of several foods that have been contaminated in the country. Why is the FDA not investigating these assertions or allegations? I am sure many of you still remember the issue of Kenkey, Aflatoxin and Cancer issue which became a topical about 15-16 years ago. At the time we were given the assurance that further investigations will be conducted to establish whether or not kenkey indeed causes cancer. Not withstanding the assertion that about half of Ghana’s population eat kenkey in some form, we still do not have any conclusive evidence of this. If further research was done, were the results ever shared?

In my little corner I can reveal a list of food items that are being corrupted or mixed with other substances.

Most people know that groundnut paste is corrupted with the ground per seed. We are also informed that grounded cola nut is mixed with powdered pepper and at the same time melon seeds or ‘agushie’ which is used in preparing kontomire stew is also mixed with some substances. At the same time we have all heard that people use car tyres in burning cow hide or “wele” and goats.

All this is against the backdrop that there are a lot of fake drugs in the country and the country is already battling with its side effects.

What are the potential implications on the health of Ghanaians when most of our food items sold in the market are either corrupted or diluted.

Has the FDA been investigating these claims. We expect the FDA to investigate all these claims.

If I were a palm oil producer, I will be really worried. This is because this current revelation could lead to a drastic reduction in the production of palm oil in Ghana and other countries and eventually lead to job losses.

The FDA has to investigate this issue and other cases thoroughly across the country and take active steps to prevent a recurrence.
Source: Daily Guide

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