Nelly Bassily | September 8, 2008
Some of the bread for sale in Ghanaian markets is not as wholesome as consumers might think, according to a new report. Mashed potatoes, plaster, and sawdust were all found in the bread, ostensibly to increase its weight. Alum and chalk were used to whiten bread. Ammonium carbonate was used to disguise the sour taste of stale flour.
Ghana’s Food and Drug Board and Food Research Institute studied food for sale in eight regions of Ghana: Ashanti, Brong Ahafo, Central, Eastern, Greater Accra, Northern, Volta, and Western. They found that the practice of food adulteration is on the rise. Food adulteration is the act of adding something inferior, harmful, useless or unnecessary to food. It is usually done to reduce manufacturing costs, to make food look more appealing, or to disguise spoilage.
The problem goes beyond bread. Other staple grain and nut products, oils, meats, and fruits and vegetables were found to be altered with inferior food products or harmful chemicals. Several types of cooking oils contained Sudan dyes, which are meant for petrol or shoe wax, and are unsafe to eat. Bixa seeds, which contain a poisonous substance, were found in grilled meat. Wood ash was found in dried okra powder.
Even spices and alcoholic beverages were affected. Pear seeds and kola nuts were found in ground pepper. Palm wine had been altered with saccharine (an artificial sweetener), monosodium glutamate (a chemical seasoning), baking soda, and tobacco leaves.
Isabella Mansa Agra is Head of Food Registration and Nutrition at the Food Research Institute. She says that materials used to change the taste or appearance of food, such as saccharine and Sudan dyes, can cause cancer and other ailments. Adulteration also reduces the nutritional value of food.
Consumers are urged to report unusual changes in their food to the Food and Drug Board. According to Mrs. Agra, leads on food adulteration will be reported to the authorities. Under Ghana’s food and drug laws, the sale of unwholesome, poisonous, or adulterated food is punishable by imprisonment.
In the same week that the report on adulterated food was released, the Food and Drug Board announced that it will begin unannounced inspections of school kitchens. The board indicated that some school caterers use unwholesome foodstuffs to prepare meals for school children. The Food and Drug Board advised caterers to buy vegetables and other food items from recognized vendors only.
Click here to see the notes to broadcasters on food adulteration