Banned Toxic Chemical Scare Hits Ghana
By Mike Anane
ACCRA, Ghana, April 30, 2003 (ENS) - Ghana’s Food and Drugs Board has issued a warning to poultry importers, retailers and consumers against the selling and consumption of chicken from Portugal after reports that large quantities of poultry products containing traces of the banned toxic chemical nitrofuran have entered the country.
Chief Executive of the Food and Drugs Board Emmanuel Kyeremateng Agyarko confirmed in an interview that the contaminated products from Portugal have entered the country, and they are being sold in retail outlets in Ho, Ghana’s Volta regional capital.
Agyarko said the presence of the contaminated products on the local market is "alarming." He explained that it is unacceptable for any poultry products to contain traces of nitrofurans which have been banned in food producing animals within Europe since 1994, and in the United States since 2002.
Agyarko said the board has been making strenous efforts to make sure that Ghana's exports were not tainted with the banned chemicals.
The Food and Drugs Board is making every effort to retrieve the contaminated poultry products that have entered Ghana, said Agyarko. He advised the general public not to buy poultry products from Portugal and appealed to anyone who comes across the Portuguese poultry products to contact the Food and Drugs Board.
According to experts, nitrofurans are veterinary medicines banned from use in food producing animals in the European Union as a result of concerns about the possibility of an increased risk of cancer if people are exposed to them over a long period of time.
Over the years, antibiotics and other growth promoting antimicrobials such as nitrofurans have been used in poultry feed with the belief that these materials improve digestion of nutrients and increase resistance to disease.
But concern over residues and the possibility of bacteria developing resistance to antibiotics has resulted in increased regulation being applied to the poultry feed industry. As a result, most countries have banned sulfonamides and nitrofurans as growth promotants because of problems with tissue residue and suspected carcinogenicity.
Recently Portuguese authorities discovered the illegal use of nitrofurans in poultry products in the country after carrying out tests during routine sampling. This led to the destruction of 43 affected farms.
But events in Ghana lend credence to the suspicion that some unscrupulous businessmen are dumping tons of the contaminated and expired poultry products on unsuspecting developing countries.
Some critics have been quick to point accusing fingers at trade liberalization and policies of the World Trade Organization, which they say facilitate the mass exports of poultry products from developed countries to developing ones.
Already, Ghanian poultry farmers are seething with discontent over the massive influx of poultry products from developed countries and their impact on the domestic market. The farmers are urging quick government action to prevent flooding of the local market with subsidized frozen chicken, which they describe as a major setback to the local industry.
Addressing journalists at a workshop held earlier this month in Accra by the Third World Network-Africa (TWN-Africa) in collaboration with the Association of Ghana Industries and the Trades Union Congress, Kenneth Quartey, president of the Ghana Poultry Association, complained that the local poultry sector is being strangled by the increasing exports from developed countries.
The workshop was held to sensitize journalists to critical issues of national concern as part of preparations towards the next ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organization scheduled for Cancun, Mexico in September,
Quartey said that in the year 2000, US$11 million worth of poultry products was imported into the country, and in 2001, the worth of imported poultry products increased to US$26 million.
He said that farmers in the developed countries sell these products at 25 to 30 percent below the cost of production in Ghana as a result of subsidies they enjoy on production and export.
At the workshop, Gyekye Tanoh of TWN-Africa also expressed dissatisfaction with the intense competition that local farmers face from the subsidized agricultural imports. He called on the government to be cautious in agreeing to WTO proposals which he said benefited the developed countries to the detriment of developing countries such as Ghana.
Given the current situation where local production of poultry products is not able to meet growing demand, the nitrofuran scare likely will not cause a decrease in the importation and consumption of poultry products from other countries since the majority of Ghanains have no option but to eat imported chicken, which sells three times cheaper than the local chicken products due to heavy subsidies.
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