The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) revealed that one of every 10 cancer cases in Nigeria can be traced to alcohol, and 4.7 percent of overall cancer cases in Nigeria in 2019 can be attributed to the consumption of adulterated alcohol.
In a major bust, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has shut down the Eziukwu Market, popularly known as Cemetery Market, in Aba, Abia State, after uncovering a vast network of counterfeiters producing and selling dangerous fake beverages.
The closure, enacted without a specified reopening date, came after NAFDAC intercepted and exposed a ring of counterfeiters involved in producing a range of beverages, including wines, soft drinks, and consumables.
The closure was the result of a thorough intelligence-gathering operation that began with a tip-off, according to Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye, the Director-General of NAFDAC, who spoke during a media interactive session on Monday, December 18. She added that the goods destroyed by the raid were worth over N750 million.
Adeyeye stressed that the problem was widespread and operated like a cartel, engaging in audacious activities that threatened those who dared to challenge them.
The counterfeiters were found to be involved in manufacturing various adulterated products, particularly different types of wine from renowned brands such as Seaman Schnapps, Henessy, Four Cousins, Carlo Rossi, and several others.
She said, “Some of the nefarious activities of the counterfeiters included the manufacturing of all kinds of adulterated products, especially different kinds of wine, from a wide variety of brands ranging from Seaman Schnapps, Henessy, Four Cousins, Carlo Rossi, Jenney, Chelsea London Dry Gin, Schnapp Dry Gin, McDowells, Black Labels, Gordons, Martell, Campari, Smirnoff Ice, Eva Non-Alcoholic Drink, Evra Non-Alcoholic Drink, Cartel, and others.
“There is also date revalidation for expired products like Peak Milk, Powdered Milk, Ketchups, Yoghurt, Coca-Cola products, and packaging of fake and substandard products, which are later sold to unsuspecting members of the public for consumption.”
The DG mentioned that over 240 shops, masquerading as factories, were raided during the operation. These shops turned factories were found to be extremely unsanitary, using unhygienic water sources, harmful chemicals, saccharin, colouring agents, dirty recycled bottles, and cloned packaging materials of renowned brands.
Adeyeye highlighted the dangers posed by consuming adulterated alcohol, citing health risks such as nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, drowsiness, dizziness, and even death. She was warned of the severe consequences, such as kidney and liver failure, resulting from the consumption of such fake products.
She said, “The adulteration of alcoholic beverages by criminal elements in the country is done by mixing cheaper sources of sugar and starch besides grapes or fruit, among other harmful chemicals unsuitable for human consumption.”
Additionally, NAFDAC destroyed over 1,500 cartons of fake and substandard products valued at over N750 million. 10 individuals were apprehended at the scene and will face legal action after a thorough investigation.
The closure of Eziukwu Market was a necessary step to conduct thorough regulatory activities and ensure an agreement with stakeholders to prevent such nefarious activities in the market space, Adeyeye stressed.
NAFDAC urged consumers to exercise vigilance and follow precautionary measures when purchasing alcoholic beverages, emphasizing the ‘4 Ps’: Place, Price, Packaging, and Product.
She added, “WHO, in their Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health, estimated that more than three million people died all over the world as a result of alcohol poisoning.
The agency pledged to continue combating counterfeit products nationwide and encouraged the public to report suspicious activities related to the illegal production of adulterated products to the nearest NAFDAC office.