Plantain chips seller. Photo by Johnny Panessa. @johnnypanessa
Plantain chips seller. Photo by Johnny Panessa. @johnnypanessa

In the area of business, there is no trust because of the dubious means of business transactions. Employees treat Fridays as holidays, either going to work late or going but not working.

Plantain chips seller. Photo by Johnny Panessa.  @johnnypanessa
Plantain chips seller.
Photo by Johnny Panessa.
@johnnypanessa
Among local food producers also, inhumane practices which go a long way to endanger the lives of consumers are adopted.

Few months ago, it came to public attention that palm oil is mixed with Sudan IV dye to increase the quantity and subsequently lead to more profits. Plantain chips production is no exception, the producers use a deadly method to make the product crispy and stay longer.

Producers melt plastic carrier bags in very hot oil in order to make the ripe plantain crispy and stay so for a relatively longer time.

The Food and Drugs Authority’s principal regulatory officer in an interview with TV Africa on 21st January 2014 about their view on this practice, his response was: it is a hoax, a way some people are trying to make these plantain chips sellers lose their jobs. He went further to say that before the plantain is fried, the “polythene bag” traces are removed from the oil .So consumers don’t chew the plastic. He emphasized that the only problem they (The Food and Drugs Authority) have is how the producers package the product.

This saddened my heart because, the Food and Drugs Authority is supposed to know better. I began asking myself what might have informed this decision from the Food Drug Authority. Is it the fear of getting some folks out of business? Or there is not enough money to fund the operation or it is sheer incompetence and lack of expertise. Whatever the reason, it doesn’t justify this inhumane act which has a high probability of endangering Ghanaian lives.

Plastic carrier bags contain biphenyl, styrene, polyvinyl chloride, polyethylene and polystyrene all of which are systematic polymers. All these chemicals leach gradually anytime they come into contact with hot foods especially oily foods. Strategic accumulation leads to serious health problems like cancer and other hormonal and reproductive complications.

“If a person eats hot food items carried in plastic bags for a long period, he or she is very likely to get serious health problems”- Dr. M. Madhusudan (King George Government hospital, India). Some of the health problems according to Dr. Madhusudan are cancer and heart diseases, tissue damages, genetic damages, chromosomal errors, miscarriage, birth defects, early onset of puberty and hormonal changes in children. Also, the leaching is intense when the food is oily. I hope you now get why most of the ripe plantain chips we chew are poisonous. According to Dr. Sanjay Mehroha, a cardiovascular specialist, the average person living in the city has 2 to 3 grams of plastic in their system.

The Food and Drugs Authority has no right to throw dust into the eyes of Ghanaians. The chemicals in the plastic carrier bags are leached into the oil before they are taken out, In fact, the crisp nature of this chips is because of the crisp nature of most plastic carrier bags which is also as a result of the chemicals it contains

On behalf of all plantain chips consumers, both ones who know about this menace and those who do not, I plead with the Food and Drugs Authority to check this deadly practice. We do not want it to be obvious that ripe plantain chips have caused serious health problems before the appropriate ameliorative actions are taken.

Frimpong Felix

University of Ghana, Legon

[email protected]

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