NAFDAC urged to conduct regular screening of fast food outlets for antibiotic use

A Nigerian scientist and professor of Biochemistry and Biotechnology, Bamidele Iwalokun, has urged the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control to develop a strategy for screening fast food outlets for the possible use of antibiotics in their preparation.

Prof. Iwalokun, who is a Director, Central Research Laboratory, Nigerian Institute of Medical Research, Yaba, Lagos, said this has become imperative, citing reported cases in other countries where antibiotics were used in fast foods. The biotechnologist, however, said though no case had been reported in Nigeria yet, the practice could be ongoing in the country.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with PUNCH HealthWise, the biotechnologist, said NAFDAC should raise awareness of the dangers of abusing antibiotics and sanction any food vendor involved in the practice. According to the scientist, one of the emergence and spread of antibiotic resistance is the use of antibiotics in livestock, poultry, and also in ready to eat foods also known as fast foods.

The researcher explained, “Now, in livestock and poultry, farmers normally use antibiotics as growth promoters. They want to get a bigger size of their farm products to make more money.

Read Also: NAFDAC Lunches Campaign About The Dangers of Drug Abuse

According to the World Health Organisation, antibiotic resistance leads to higher medical costs, prolonged hospital stays, and increased mortality, adding that antibiotic resistance is rising to dangerously high levels in all parts of the world. To prevent antibiotic resistance, the expert said it was also important that farmers stop using antibiotics in their feeds, poultries, poultry water, livestock, and pigs’ rearing.

The professor stated that there was a need for awareness creation on the use of antibiotics in Nigeria to prevent the ongoing resistance.

He noted, “We have had reports of using antibiotics in fast foods in other countries but we have not had any report of it occurring in Nigeria. We should create awareness that it should not be done. What NAFDAC should do is develop a strategy to screen ready-to-eat foods for possible antibiotic contamination because it has been reported that antibiotics are used in fast foods.

“But we do not have the evidence in Nigeria yet. But as a way of acting proactively to forestall it, the regulatory agency should put a strategy in motion for screening antibiotics in ready-to-eat foods such as sausages, bulgar, meat pie, sausages, among others.”

“NAFDAC should carry out the screening in case such practice is being done unnoticed. By the time we screen and find residues of antibiotics in them, such food vendors should be sanctioned. This is because it is a practice that will further promote the spread of antibiotic resistance if not forestalled.”

The WHO states that new resistance mechanisms are emerging and spreading globally thereby threatening the world’s ability to treat common infectious diseases.

“The world urgently needs to change the way it prescribes and uses antibiotics. Even if new medicines are developed, without behaviour change, antibiotic resistance will remain a major threat. Behaviour changes must also include actions to reduce the spread of infections through vaccination, hand washing, practising safer sex, and good food hygiene”, WHO says.