The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) in Benue has warned food vendors in the state to desist from using food enhancers to tenderise meat before cooking.
“The agency’s coordinator in the state, Mr Peter Okoye, who gave the warning in an interview with News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Makurdi, urged the operators to soak the meat in salted water before cooking.
Okoye, however, advised that such table salt should be genuine and registered by NAFDAC to avoid complications.
“Members of the public are urged to use genuine NAFDAC registered table salt, in moderation, to tenderise meat.
“They should soak the meat in salted water for about 30 minutes prior to cooking to prevent serious health consequences that may result from dangerous and illegal use of paracetamol tablets in food preparation.
“Other established and safe methods for tenderising meat include: cooking with a pressure cooker, marinating with vinegar, citrus juices or wine before cooking.
“Marinating with enzymes: pineapple, kiwi, ginger, Asian pear and pawpaw contain enzymes that can help soften meat.
“Slow cooking of the meat, or using commercial meat tenderisers in moderation, which are sold in powder or liquid form,” he advised.
He disclosed that NAFDAC had heightened surveillance on restaurant operators in the 36 States and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, to prevent the dangerous and illegal use of paracetamol tablets in food preparation.
“Members of the public are implored to contact the nearest NAFDAC office with any information on dangerous and illegal use of paracetamol tablets in food preparation.
“Anybody or organisation discovered to be involved in the dangerous and illegal use of paracetamol tablets in food preparation will be severely sanctioned.
“We advise consumers to report adverse events related to dangerous and illegal use of paracetamol tablets in food preparation to the nearest NAFDAC office.
“Using paracetamol tablets to soften meat is an illegal practice and it makes food to be toxic, unwholesome as well as unfit for human consumption.
“When used to cook, paracetamol is broken down or hydrolysed into a toxic substance. This substance ultimately damages the liver and some other organs in the body.
“Thus, the consumption of toxic and unwholesome food illegally prepared using paracetamol tablets may result in serious health consequences, including liver damage, kidney failure and untimely death,” he said.
However, food vendors in Makurdi said they were not using paracetamol for cooking.
Mrs Franca Iorbo, a vendor on Inikpi Street, said that she was hearing of the ugly development for the first time.
“I have not heard of it before let alone use it to cook,” Iorbo said.
Also, Mrs Lucy Ornguga, a food vendor in Wurukum market, queried how paracetamol could be used to cook.
“How possible is that. Some things are better imagined than said.
“There are many means that one can use to cook. If you cannot afford gas, you can at least buy kerosene or charcoal or firewood. In fact, I do not believe that people use paracetamol to cook,” Ornguga said.
Similarly, a Public Health Physician in Nasarawa State, Dr Tolulope Tolufase, warned against the use of paracetamol to tenderise foods, as it would constitute health hazards to the human system.
“Eating foods that are tenderised by paracetamol over time can cause severe liver damage, Kidney failure and other serious health complications,”Tolufase said.
Dr Tolufase, who is the President of Moole Charity Foundation, said people indulged in the practice ignorantly to save costs, without considering the health implications that might arise.
He appealed to people who indulged in the act to desist from it, disclosing that his foundation would embark on a sensitisation campaign in order to educate people on the dangers of using paracetamol and bleach to process foods.
Meanwhile, food vendors in the state say they are not aware of the current trend of using foods enhancers, such as paracetamol and bleach to prepare foods.
One of them, Mrs Charity Chukwuemeka, told NAN in Lafia that she was, however, aware that some vendors were using a nail to tenderise tough meat.
“But I am not aware of the practice of using such food enhancers: paracetamol and bleach to cook food, I don’t use such things here,” Chukwuemeka said.
Another one, Hauwa Iliyasu, said she was surprised to learn that paracetamol that was supposed to be taken as the drug was being used to prepare foods.
Iliyasu said she did not indulge in the act neither did she know of anybody perpetrating it.
Similarly, Erick Adigizi, a Lafia-based restaurant owner, said he only read the report of tenderising tough meat using paracetamol tablets on the pages of the newspaper.
In Jalingo, the Director Public, Health of the Taraba Ministry of Health, Dr Ebenezer Apake, said the staff of the ministry were conducting routine checks on caterers and food vendors to ensure that the people of the state were consuming safe food.
Apake advised caterers, food, water vendors and restaurants owners, in general, to put the safety of their customers first before profit.
But some food vendors spoken in the state said they were not using paracetamol and bleach to cook or preserve foods.
Among them is Mrs Veronica Matsonde who said that she was surprised when she heard about the use of paracetamol and bleach for cooking and preservation of cassava.
Matsonde noted that it would be wicked for anyone to put drugs inside food for human beings to consume.
“I was shocked when I heard recently that some people use paracetamol and bleach to cook for sale.
“If that is true then, it is a very wicked act, how can one put drugs inside food for customers.
“The food I sell to my customers is the same food my family consume in the house,” she said.
Mr Ande Michael, a caterer in Jalingo, also expressed shock at the question on the use of paracetamol and bleach to cook or preserve food.
Michael said it would be murderous of anyone to use such substances to cook food for customers.