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Illicit Sale of Unapproved MSG in Kano Raises Health Concerns

The market in Kano, northern Nigeria, has witnessed the influx of unbranded and unauthorized additives, particularly monosodium glutamate (MSG), colloquially known as “white maggi.” These products, primarily originating from China, are sold in 25-kg bags without the necessary approval from the National Agency for Food Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC). Investigative efforts reveal the illegal importation and sale of these MSG products, raising significant health and safety concerns.

Undercover Investigation at Singer Market

An undercover investigation conducted by Yekeen Akinwale at Kano’s Singer market exposes the prevalence of unapproved MSG products. Wholesale dealers, like Alhaji Aminu, report a consistent high demand for Fufeng, a made-in-China MSG, despite lacking authorization from regulatory bodies.

Overview of MSG and Popular Brands

MSG, or monosodium glutamate, is a common flavor enhancer used globally. In northern Nigeria, the crystalline form of MSG is known as “Farin Maggi,” irrespective of the brand. Notably, Fufeng MSG, a Chinese product, dominates the market alongside other brands like Wuyi.

Lack of Authorization and Regulatory Oversight

Disturbingly, products like Fufeng lack any marks of authorization from regulatory agencies such as NAFDAC and the Standard Organization of Nigeria (SON). The Director-General of NAFDAC, Mojisola Adeyeye, warns that unregistered food items are likely fake and may pose health risks. The unauthorized sale of these MSG products is a clear violation of regulatory standards.

Demand and Consumption Patterns

Despite the absence of regulatory approval, consumers, including retailers and operators of large restaurants, continue to purchase and use these unapproved MSG products. Fufeng, priced at N43,000 per 25kg, offers affordability and flexibility, allowing retailers to sell in smaller units. However, this affordability comes at the expense of potential health risks due to adulteration.

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Illegal Importation Routes and Challenges

The unapproved MSG products, including Fufeng, find their way into the Nigerian market through illegal routes. Traders, like Alhaji Aminu, admit to importing the products from Lagos but withhold information about the importers. The lack of scrutiny by the Nigeria Customs Service raises questions about the effectiveness of regulatory measures.

Economic Hardship and Consumer Choices

The surge in the sale of unapproved MSG in Kano is attributed to rising economic hardship, with consumers making choices based on affordability rather than safety. Lifestyle changes driven by economic challenges prompt consumers to opt for cheaper commodities, overlooking potential health risks associated with unapproved products.

Response from Regulatory Agencies

The Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) expresses its intent to investigate the sale of unbranded MSG products in Kano. Boladale Adeyinka, Director of Surveillance and Investigation at FCCPC, emphasizes the importance of market surveillance and consumer protection. NAFDAC has also initiated an investigation into the open sale of unauthorized MSG, directing its directorate of post-marketing surveillance to address the issue.

Conclusion

The illicit sale of unapproved MSG in Kano raises significant health concerns, highlighting the need for stringent regulatory measures and consumer awareness. The investigation underscores the challenges posed by illegal importation routes, economic hardships, and the importance of regulatory agencies in ensuring the safety of food products in the market.

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