The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has said that importation of Indomie noodles to Nigeria has been hereby banned following allegations of a cancer-causing chemical found in the noodles and non-registration of the agency.
Nigeria investigates as Malaysia, Taiwan recall Indomie noodles over cancer-causing substance.
The company said the Indomie noodles have received standard certifications and have been produced in compliance with international food safety regulations.
Following reports of a cancer-causing chemical found in Indomie noodles, Nigeria’s National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has launched an investigation.
Health officials in Malaysia and Taiwan had detected ethylene oxide, a compound used to sterilise medical devices and spices, in Indomie’s “special chicken” flavour noodles.
NAFDAC’s director-general, Mojisola Adeyeye, stated that the agency would begin random sample tests of the noodles and other brands from May 2nd.
She confirmed that the product is on the prohibition list of the federal government, is not registered by NAFDAC, and had been banned from importation to Nigeria years ago.
NAFDAC is working to ensure that the product is not being smuggled and that the feedback from the investigations would be communicated to the public.
Meanwhile, Indofood, makers of Indomie noodles, has said the product was safe for consumption and received standard certifications and was produced in compliance with international food safety regulations.
Malaysian, Taiwan findings
The health department in Taipei, Taiwan’s capital, said it detected ethylene oxide in two types of instant noodles, including the Indomie chicken flavour, following random inspections.
It said the detection of ethylene oxide in the product did not comply with standards.
“The Taipei City Health Bureau reminds food industry that our country has not approved the use of ethylene oxide as a pesticide, nor has it approved the use of ethylene oxide gas as a disinfection purpose,” the department said in a statement.
“The industry is sure to implement autonomous management and confirm that the raw materials and products should comply with food safety and health management.”
Following this development, the health ministry in Malaysia said it had examined 36 samples of instant noodles from different brands since 2022 and found that 11 samples contained ethylene oxide.
Ethylene oxide is a colourless, odourless gas that is used to sterilize medical devices and spices and has been described as a cancer-causing chemical.
The Malaysian ministry said it had taken enforcement actions and recalled the affected products.
Indofoods, an Indonesian company and maker of Indomie instant noodles, has denied the allegations noting that all its noodles are produced with standard certification. However, Taiwan and Malaysia have ordered businesses to immediately remove the products from their shelves.
NAFDAC Director General, Mojisola Adeyeye, a professor, on Sunday, told this newspaper that beginning from Tuesday, 2 May, the agency will commence processes to test randomly selected products to ascertain the claims before reaching out to the public.
Mrs Adeyeye in response to an inquiry by our reporter, said the agency’s official in charge of laboratory services is already on alert.
The director general wrote: “NAFDAC is responding. We plan to randomly sample Indomie noodles (including the seasoning) from the production facilities while PMS samples from the markets. This we will carry out on Tuesday 2nd May (as Monday May 1st is a public holiday).
“The compound of interest is ethylene oxide, so the Director (Lab Services) Food has (is) being engaged, and he is working on the methodology for the analysis.”
Safe for consumption
Reacting to the allegations in a statement on Friday, Taufik Wiraatmadja, a member of the board of directors at Indofoods, defended the safety of the noodles noting that it is safe for consumption.
Mr Wiraatmadja said the noodles have received standard certifications and have been produced in compliance with international food safety regulations.
“All instant noodles produced by ICBP in Indonesia are processed in compliance with the food safety standards from the Codex Standard for Instant Noodles and standards set by the Indonesian National Agency for Drug and Food Control (“BPOM RI”). Our instant noodles have received Indonesian National Standard Certification (SNI), and are produced in certified production facilities based on international standards,” he wrote.
“ICBP has exported instant noodles to various countries around the world for more than 30 years. The Company continuously ensures that all of its products are in compliance with the applicable food safety regulations and guidelines in Indonesia as well as other countries where ICBP’s instant noodles are marketed.
“We would like to emphasise that in accordance with the statement released by BPOM RI, our Indomie instant noodles are safe for consumption.”
Indofoods is one of the world’s largest makers of instant noodles and exports its products to more than 90 countries including Saudi Arabia and Nigeria where they are in high demand.
Implication for Nigeria
Nigeria, a major consumer of Indomie instant noodles, is expected to take a position on the matter in the coming days.
According to data from the World Instant Noodles Association (WINA), Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, is currently among the largest consumers of instant noodles with 1.92 million servings as of May 2020.
The country also ranked 11th in the global demand for noodles ranking, with Indomie instant noodles being the most consumed brand in Nigeria.