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General News of Sunday, 5 May 2002

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Paracetamol Used in Food Preparation?


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Food vendors in and around the Accra metropolis have been asked to desist from the practice, whereby the paracetamol drug is being used as a food additive.

The drug, after an in-depth testing at the laboratory of the Foods and Drugs Board (FDB), has been proved to be very harmful to human health if used for the wrong reasons, especially for cooking, other than it serving as a pain killer.

According to the acting head of the Drugs Division of the FDB, Mr. Jonathan Martey, who spoke to the Chronicle at his office yesterday, the drug could give severe kidney problems when heat is applied to it because it has a chemical compound which undergoes changes, depending on how it is handled.

Mr. Martey was reacting to allegations that some food vendors and chop bar operators in the city centers had made it a habit of using paracetamol to tenderize meat to avoid the long hours of boiling in order to meet the increasing demands of their customers.

Chronicle also gathered that when the drug is used for cooking, it breaks down into other forms which may not possess its original properties as a pain killer, and thus could lead to high acidity.

Mr. Martey further explained that when this process occurs, the drug is hydrolysed into what he called 4-aminophenol, which is very toxic to the kidney.

He said the extent of damage to the kidney could depend on how often the drug is used in cooking, whilst the damaging process may either be gradual or sudden.

"I wouldn't be surprised if kidney problems reported in most hospitals may be as a result of this practice by chop operators," he noted.

Asked whether the allegations were true or not, Mr. Martey remarked that FDB had received report on the issue and were still investigating to bring the perpetrators of such acts to books, adding that he did not know why people should use the drug in cooking, "looking at the health hazards it exposes consumers to."

He therefore called on the general public to act as watchdogs to report any food vendor they find using the said drugs to face the full rigors of the law.

In a related development, the public relations officer, Mr. James Y. Lartey, called on consumers to be wary of products they buy on the market and shops since some of them are expired and imitated.

He said consumers should look out for batch numbers and should make sure that inscriptions on product labels are well written in English, adding that both local and foreign manufacturers should ensure that their products are registered with the board before they appear on the market.

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