Photo: Indomie Noodles.
Indomie Noodles: Nigerian children risk increased cancer cases
The National Institute for Cancer Research and Treatment (NICRAT), has said if ethylene oxide, a cancer-causing substance, is found in noodles produced in Nigeria, more persons, particularly children, will be diagnosed with the disease in the coming years.
The institute’s position is based on the detection of ethylene oxide in Indomie’s “special chicken” flavour noodles in Malaysia and Taiwan as announced by health authorities in both countries.
NICRAT, in a statement signed by its Director-General, Usman Aliyu, said the review of ethylene oxide shows that the compound has grave consequences for human health, especially when consumed.
Aliyu said Nigerians should also expect an increase in cancer cases among children if such substance is found in locally manufactured products.
He said children are more at risk because noodles are mostly consumed by children in Nigeria.
Aliyu said, “Our in-depth review of ethylene oxide indicated that it is a highly reactive chemical that is used as a raw material to make other compounds such as glycol ethers and polyglycol ethers, as well as a range of emulsifiers, detergents, and solvents.
“Ethylene oxide is also widely used as a fumigant for cleaning culinary goods, including spices. It is also frequently used to disinfect medical equipment, particularly those that might be harmed by heat sterilisation.”
He said the agency’s independent review shows that there is sufficient evidence in experimental animals for the carcinogenicity of ethylene oxide, and there is strong evidence that the carcinogenicity of ethylene oxide, a direct-acting alkylating agent, operates by a genotoxic mechanism.
“NICRAT is deeply worried that, if found that some brands of Indomie noodles contain ethylene oxide, then, Nigerians should expect an escalation of various forms of cancers in the months or years ahead, depending on how long people have consumed that brand,” he said.
Indofoods, an Indonesian company and maker of Indomie instant noodles, has however, rejected the findings of authorities in Malaysia and Taiwan, noting that all its noodles are produced with standard certification.
Although Indomie noodles consumed in Nigeria are locally produced, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has said it will commence investigations into all noodles produced in the country to ensure all ingredients used are safe for human consumption.
The agency’s Director General, Mojisola Adeyeye, a professor, also said the importation of noodles remains banned in the country, noting that local manufacturers were duly accredited to produce locally to create job opportunities and improve the nation’s economy.
Though the institute specifically spoke about Indomie noodles as a product in its statement, NAFDAC said its searchlight is being beamed on all noodles produced in the country and their sauces.
NICRAT, created by an Act in 2017, is an agency with the mandate to prevent, conduct research and treat cancers in Nigeria.
Mr Aliyu said the agency’s concern is premised on the fact that cancer has claimed a lot of lives in Nigeria.
In 2020 alone, 78,000 Nigerians died as a result of cancer-related complications (34,200 males and 44,699 females).
“We will further collaborate with NAFDAV in ensuring the safety and protection of Nigerians from cancer-causing agents,” he said.
Indofood is one of the largest manufacturers of instant noodles globally. It serves as a favourite snack for both children and adults due to its unique taste.
Nigeria is a major consumer of instant noodles, which are produced locally.
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.