The Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) will soon trace culprits who mix and contaminate palm oil with Sudan IV Dye, popularly known as “Suudii”, in the palm oil value chain.
The traceability system will also improve Ghana’s international trade credibility ratings.
The regulatory actions to be taken against culprits include seizure of contaminated palm oil, prosecution of offenders, and involving market queens in the identification of culprits involved in palm oil adulteration.
The rest are monitoring-sampling and testing for Sudan dye of samples from the markets and intensification of public education and sensitisation on palm oil adulteration.
Sudan IV Dye is an oil-soluble azo dye used for colouring textiles, plastics, wax, floor and polish.
Mrs Jocelyn Adeline N. K. Egyakwa-Amusah, Head, Food Safety Coordination & Consumer Education Department, FDA, disclosed the upcoming exercise at an engagement with market queen mothers in Accra to discourage the practice.
Apart from causing cancers in consumers, she said the practice also deterred Ghana’s palm oil from being accepted on the global markets.
The Food Safety Division of the Authority conducted a research in 2015 to assess the level of palm oil adulteration with Sudan IV dyes from markets in the country within 10 major markets in the Greater Accra region, she said.
Out of the 50 samples analysed, 49 samples representing 98 per cent tested positive for Sudan dyes,
Interventions were taken to bring to a halt the adulteration such as sampling of palm oil in the rest of the regions in Ghana.
They were detaining consignments of palm oil from the production site to the distribution points in the country, sampling and testing for Sudan IV dyes and released only when it passed the test as well as intensification of public education at the palm oil manufacturing sites and the market places.
Mrs Egyakwa-Amusah said the step yielded positive results as the 98 per cent dropped from 2015 to 7.3 per cent in 2018.
However, the percentage shot up again to 26.0 in 2019 and reduced to 22.9 per cent in 2021.
She said a nationwide surveillance proved that the Savannah and Upper West regions did not have any contamination in 2021, unlike the other regions with the Greater Accra Region having the highest failure rate of samples (Mallam Atta and Dome markets had 100 per cent of samples failed).
Mr Ebenezer Kofi Essel, Head of Food Industrial Support Services Department, FDA, said it was high time the FDA together with law enforcers used some people as scapegoats for adulterating just for a more reddish colour.
“Formerly cancer wasn’t as common as it is now. The dye destroys the Vitamin A in the palm oil and makes it dangerous to the health of consumers. This is frightening and worrying and we must all help to put a stop to it,” he said.
Mr Paul Amaning, President, Association of Palm Oil Millers, said as part of the traceability system, the FDA would register all dealers in palm oil business.
“The FDA will need everyone’s National ID and location, and they will be given ID cards where the bar codes will be scanned periodically for tracing. I am appealing to all market women and queens here to help us identity members for registration,” he said.
He said records showed that Malaysians came to learn palm oil production in Ghana but were however doing well as a country with palm oil contributing significantly to it, while Ghanaians were rather collapsing their palm oil business.
Madam Constance Boadi, Patron, Oil Palm Association of Ghana, with some palm oil traders blamed the adulteration on the attitudes of buyers or consumers, who preferred more reddish and unsettled palm oil.
She cautioned buyers to desist from putting pressure on traders for more reddish and unsettled palm oil as that forced some of them adulterate it with the dye.
By Eunice Hilda A. Mensah