Indian Queen Basmati Rice by Bhara Industrial Enterprises Limited
Indian Queen Basmati Rice by Bhara Industrial Enterprises Limited

The National Agency for Food Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has confirmed that the 102 bags of rice seized by Customs operatives earlier this month were unfit for human consumption due to contaminations by microorganisms but were not plasticized as alleged in the reports. The NAFDAC Acting Director-General, Mrs. Yetude Oni made this confirmation at a joint press briefing with the Nigeria Customs Service in Abuja after carrying out laboratory tests on samples of rice seized by Customs officials in Lagos. According to her, “The product is not plastic but rice contaminated with microorganisms above permissible limit, hence the seized rice consignment is unsatisfactory and therefore unwholesome for human consumption.”

The Acting DG further provided the full report of the laboratory test carried out:

  1. Floating – Negative
  2. Sedimentation – Positive
  3. Cooking. – Normal
  4. Odour. – Normal
  5. Colour. – Off-white grains
  6. Moisture. – 13% (within specification)
  7. Pre-ashing. – Normal
  8. Ash. – 0.6% (within specification)
  9. Lead and Cadmium – Not detected
  10. Aerobic mesophillic count – 2.8×105 cfu (above maximum limits)
  11. Mould – 5.1×103 cfu – (within specification)
  12. Coli form – 7.5×103 cfu (above maximum limits)
  13. E-coli. – <3cfu (within specification)
  14. Packaging. – Does not conform to NAFDAC pre-packaging Food labeling regulations 2005

In his remarks, the Deputy Comptroller-General in charge of Tariff and Trade, Mr. Umar Iya Abubakar explained that the seizure of 102 bags of rice was made based on an earlier intelligence reports received from the office of the National Security Adviser that there were glaring lapses in the packaging of the bags of rice. He said, “Our operatives in Lagos intercepted a consignment of Rice, Customs action was based on an earlier intelligence we received from Office of the National Security Adviser, alerting us and other frontline Agencies that large consignments of plasticized rice were said to be shipped from the Far East to Africa. As the largest market for imported Rice in Africa, Customs took the alert seriously and charged Officers to watch out for such imports that do not conform to regulatory requirements.” He further added, “When the consignments of rice in question were brought to Customs Warehouse, our apprehension became heightened when we observed glaring lapses in the packaging. The bags of Rice had no NAFDAC Number, batch number, manufacturing, or expiry dates. We could also did not see any detail about the manufacturers on the bag. We were left with no option but to escalate our findings to the Agency that is statutorily charged with the responsibility of confirming the true status of the import.”

While explaining the circumstances surrounding the alleged plastic rice, Mr. Umar Iya Abubakar said that the NCS only responded to a security alert issued by the Office of the National Security Adviser on the importation of plastic rice into the country. On the bags of good rice seized from traders who illegally imported the staple food to Nigeria, Ilya explained that the NCS had after subjected the rice to test had given them to IDPs. He said, “We have seized over 40,000 bags of rice so far since the ban on importation of rice through the land borders. Those are the bags of rice that are being shared to the IDPs camps. But that is after we have tested and certified them suitable for consumption.” He urged warehouse owners across the country not to accept smuggled products into their facilities. While cautioning transporters he said, “We urge the transporters to reject moving such products, as under the law, both smuggled products and the means of conveyance are liable to seizure. We will rely on the synergy with NAFDAC, and other agencies of government to ensure that smuggled and unhygienic products are not allowed in Nigeria.”