Large quantities of adulterated palm oil have been confiscated by the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) from 10 major markets in Accra and Tema.
The products, which were being sold at the Mallam Atta, Dome, Dansoman, Agbogbloshie and Kaneshie markets, all in Accra, were said to have been adulterated with Sudan IV, an industrial dye used in the colouration of plastics and other synthetic products.
Large quantities of the oil were also seized at the Madina, Makola No 2, Tema Community One and Ashaiman markets.
Officials of the FDA said initial laboratory analyses conducted on samples of the adulterated oil showed active dye (sudee) substance of about 98 per cent.
Sudan IV dye, according to the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the FDA, Mr Hudu Mogtari, had the potential of causing cancer when mixed with food, and as such constituted a risk to public health.
Palm oil was adulterated with the dye, he indicated, to enhance and maintain its colour to make it more appealing to consumers.
Mr Mogtari told the Daily Graphic in Accra that following a tip-off, the FDA, in collaboration with the Narcotics Division of the Police Service, conducted swoops in the markets.
He said the adulteration of the product had led to a ban on palm oil export from Ghana to the European market, which he said had considerably affected non-traditional export earnings from the product.
ArrestAccording to Mr Mogtari, 22 dealers suspected to be involved in the adulteration of the products before retailing them had been arrested to assist in investigations.
Read also: Palm oil can be Ghana’s next ‘gold
“An initial laboratory analysis conducted on the products revealed they contain Sudan III and Sudan IV dyes. Continuous exposure and high levels of Sudan IV dye in food items increases the risk of cancer.
“We have also mapped out strategies to identify the processing points where the adulteration of these products are equally possible,” Mr Mogtari said.
Public Health ActMr Mogtari said that the Public Health Act 851 of 2012, Section 12 prohibited the adulteration of food items and that a person who sold such adulterated food or used such a chemical in a food item committed an offence under the act.
Similarly, he said, the current European legal framework on colours in food did not include Sudan dyes as a positive list of colours authorised for use in food.
Mr Mogtari cautioned processors, wholesalers, distributors and retailers that adulteration was a prohibited act, as spelt out in Section 100 of the Public Health Act, 2012, Act 851.
While assuring the general public that the FDA would continue to collaborate with the Police Service to clamp down on perpetrators whose action could endanger public health, he further appealed to the public to contact the FDA with useful information that would help it to carry out its mandate of protecting public health and safety.