Already, officials of the FDA have been invited to submit a written statement to the police on the laboratory analysis on the products which have so far tested positive for 98 per cent of active Sudan III and Sudan IV, also known as ‘sudee’, a potential cancer-causing chemical.
The FDA, in collaboration with the police, confiscated the adulterated palm oil from the Mallam Atta, Dome, Dansoman, Agbogbloshie and Kaneshie markets, all in Accra.
A number of containers of the product were also seized from the Madina, Makola No 2, Tema Community One and Ashaiman markets.
Officials say the ‘sudee’ dye, which is not listed among the colours in food production, is also prohibited under Ghana’s Public Health Safety laws.
According to the Commander in charge of the DLEU, Deputy Superintendent of Police Mr David Selorm Hukportie, preliminary investigations revealed that the adulteration of the products was done at the insistence of the traders.
“Our investigations have so far established a well-organised plan by the traders and processors of the commodity to ensure it is mixed with the ‘sudee’ dye to make the product more appealing in colour,” he told the Daily Graphic in Accra.
The culprits, he said, would be charged under the Public Health Act 851 of 2012 which prohibits adulteration of food items for retailing, since the act had the potential of endangering public health and safety.
“We are treating this as an organised crime, since our investigations so far showed that there were many players involved in all processes of adulterating the product,” he stressed.
Mr Hukportie indicated that during the swoop, the police also confiscated an articulated truck which had carted the product from one of the processing points to the Mallam Atta and the Makola markets.
“We are determined to follow up with the prosecution to serve as a deterrent to people engaged in acts that have the tendency of endangering food and drugs security,” he said.
The Deputy Chief Executive in charge of the Food Division at the FDA, Mr Odame Darkwah, for his part, told the Daily Graphic in an interview that officials were determined to see through the prosecution of the 22 traders arrested so far to serve as a deterrent.
He expressed worry that while the FDA had, on an annual basis, organised sensitisation programmes for commodity traders on the trade, criminal and public health implications the presence of banned chemicals in food and drugs posed to the country, they went back to do the contrary.
“Since 2003, we have been holding these dialogue and sensitisation forums with market women and traders of these commodities and it is surprising that soon after these engagements, the traders go back to do some of these things,” he said.
He hinted that the FDA had held meetings, during which the adulteration of items such as groundnut paste and other edible products had come up strongly.
“A second phase of our strategies will be to conduct post-market surveillance to ensure that adulterated products that might have entered the market are immediately withdrawn to protect public health and safety,” Mr Darkwah reiterated.