Pesticide use on beans, fruits heighten food safety concerns
Vincent A. Yusuf (Abuja), Ibrahim Musa Giginyu (Kano) & Romoke W. Ahmad (Ilorin)
Last week, the Consumer Protection Council released a warning on the application of 2.2 dichlorovinyl dimethyl phosphates commonly called “Sniper” in beans and the consequences on consumer health.
A similar YouTube video showing some persons applying Sniper to preserve beans further heightened serious concerns over food safety systems and resonated the EU’s sanction of Nigerian beans.
Currently, Nigeria cannot export beans to European countries because of pesticide residue levels in beans, which is above the EU acceptable limit of 0.01 dichlorvos level.
Earlier this year, Daily Trust investigations revealed that farmers and fruit sellers used carbide to ripen fruits across many markets in the country. The story, which showed widespread application, heightened fears among consumers.
This latest incident raises concern over the safety of what Nigerians eats as beans, fruits and vegetables indiscriminately preserved with pesticides.
The CPC in the statement noted that “sniper, by its chemical composition and nature, is potentially injurious when people are unduly exposed by inhalation, absorption, direct skin contact or injection”.
The organisation warned that there were significantly heightened risks of injury to a person applying Sniper to beans because of direct contact. However, the risk of injury on account of consumption of beans exposed to or treated with sniper is also existential , even though an unintended consequence.”
Dr Vincent Isegbe, the coordinating director of the Nigerian Agricultural Quarantine Service, during an interview with Daily Trust in Abuja, expressed serious concerns over the activities of some beans marketers and exporters who overuse pesticides to preserve beans.
He noted that despite embarking on awareness campaigns across major grains and beans markets across the country, some people still carried out the nefarious activity, leading to the extension of the ban on Nigerian beans by the EU.
“We are still not where we are supposed to be. What resulted in the three year EU ban still subsists,” he stated, adding, “The agency is working to ensure that there will be no pesticides above permissible limit, no pests, generally the commodities will be physically clean, well packaged, labeled for both local consumption and export.”
A local beans farmer, Mohammed Adamu, told Daily Trust that most of those who carried out the activities were marketers that mop and store beans for future markets.
“The smallholder farmers most times don’t keep their beans beyond two months because of their financial needs. And those who keep beyond three months have traditional ways of storing these that make it difficult for weevils to attack. But there are people who are into the beans business, buying from village to village and collating it into warehouses where they are prepared with pesticides for storage,” Adamu said.
He further said: “If you scrutinize the beans stored in major cities and the ones we have in the villages, the different will be clear. I know some farmers, especially those who cultivate large quantities also do so but the perpetrators are mostly marketers.”
Reacting to the development, the Nigerian Stored Products Research Institute (NSPRI) Ilorin, said there are many ways to store grains like beans without adding chemicals to it.
The Executive Director/ CEO of the institute, Professor Olufemi Peters, told Daily Trust that the problem of high susceptibility of beans to insect infestation results in huge losses, lowers food security and food safety.
He listed systems of storage to include; hermetic storage, diatomaceous earth, inert atmosphere system and fumigation among others.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, while speaking on the issue with agric journalists in Otukpo, Benue State recently, said:
“If you want to preserve beans, just put a tiny cut of hot pepper in it because it is another cheap and safe way to preserve beans. That’s why we use the NOA and community engagements to inform the people.”
Chied Ogbeh stressed: “We are avoiding chemicals because so many young people are developing kidney failure due to
use of such chemicals.” Grains prices crash in Kano
Meanwhile, our correspondent in Kano reports that the grains market in the state has been hit by the recent reports of the use pesticides to preserve them, leading to drastic fall in prices.
The reports have generated serious panic among beans consumers in the state and made many sceptical about beans consumption.
According to a resident, Malam Ahmad Usman Kankan, many heads of families have issued strong warnings to their wives on use of beans.
“We have heard the warning on some radio stations and some of us have read it on the pages of newspapers that some people are using poison to preserve beans, therefore we warned our wives not to use beans until we are satisfied that it is safe through measures by health officials,” he said.
Similarly, a merchant at the famous Dawanau international grains market, Alhaji Danliti Barau, told our reporter that the price of beans had crashed since the report went viral. According to him, a bag of beans which went for N28, 000 last week is now sold at between N19, 000 and N20, 000. He added that even at that the buyers are not forthcoming as expected. Carbide used in ripening fruits
Following Daily Trust’s investigation in April on the use of Carbide to ripen fruits which stirred outrage among consumers, our reporter went back to the Zuba International fruits market, one of the biggest fruit markets in the country to check if the practice continued.
Although this is not the season for mangoes, one of the major fruits affected, there has been some high level of control in its use compared to when Daily Trust first investigated the issue.
Abubakar Duara, the spokesman of Fruits Sellers Association of Nigeria, said since that report, the union leaders reorganized the market for easy monitoring, control and sanctioning of anyone involved in the act.
He stressed that the market is now organized in sections with sectional leaders who ensure compliance and a taskforce visits these sections to ascertain the true situation.
“We used to go to these sections unexpected to make sure that there is nothing like carbide application,” he said.
Investigations show pesticides are also used to ripe fruits