The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control has arrested nine suspects connected with alleged illegal wine and beverage manufacturing factories at the Relief Market, Onitsha, Anambra State.
This followed a special raid and enforcement operation of the Federal Government’s ban on imported fruit juices on Wednesday in Onitsha.
NAFDAC’s Head, Investigation and Enforcement, Kingsley Ejiofor, explained that those arrested were involved in the bottling of unwholesome, counterfeit and dangerous drinks.
Ejiofor said: “We came here for a special assignment to mop up all counterfeit and prohibited products which include imported fruit juices, food, drugs, medical devices, cosmetics, detergent and bottled water, among others.
“We were able to uncover illegal manufacturers of bottle, unwholesome and dangerous chemicals, they call wine and spirits. It was so disheartening.”
Ejiofor said that popular brands of beverages like Hennessey, 501, Johnny Walker, Red Label whisky, Best Marula fruit cream, Pure heaven, Amarula, Baron De Vals, Eva and J&W, among others were being faked.
According to him, the beverages were being produced in unhygienic factories with cockroaches.
He listed items found in the factories to include stoves, colourants, plastic containers, cups, labels, corks, unidentified chemicals and recycled bottles.
Ejiofor said: “In one of the shops, the smell was so pungent that we could not even recover the materials and had to destroy them right there.
“This is why we find the incidences of cancer to be high in this country because we don’t know what we drink.
“I will like to use this medium to tell people to destroy cups, plastics or bottles after use because not doing so encourages these illegal producers.”
Ejiofor further advised retailers and consumers to issue and collect receipts for every product purchased to enable tracking.
Ejiofor said that the arrested suspects – five males and four females – would be interrogated and prosecuted, while the recovered items, especially the chemicals, would be taken to NAFDAC laboratory for analysis.
The official, while urging members of the public to come forth with information on such nefarious activities, assured them that credible information provided to the agency would not be divulged.
Dr. Christiana Esenwah, a Deputy Director of NAFDAC, said the exercise was in continuation of an earlier raid in December 2015 to mop up all imported fruit drinks.
Esenwah said that besides the imported fruit drinks, the NAFDAC team also confiscated diverted United Nation condoms, injectables and prescription drugs.
Esenwah said: “We saw illegal tramadol (200mg) and all sorts of aphrodisiacs that are very enunciating and obscene with some terrible labels.
“Some registered products which the illegal manufacturers changed the label were also recovered.
“This is a call for traders and the totality of the citizens of this country to be vigilant.
“It is heartbreaking to know that such illicit business was going on there and people are just going about their businesses.
“People should know the type of job they are being offered and what their neighbours are doing for a living.
“We say in NAFDAC: ‘Shine your eye.’”