- Jean Charles Biohila
- Yaoundé – BBC Africa
Adulterated or unfit for consumption products are a public health problem in Cameroon.
The national laboratory for quality control and drug competence of the Cameroonian Ministry of Public Health raises the alarm on these agri-food products.
Wines and drinks of dubious origin and irreparable health consequences are sold to the populations at very affordable prices.
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In this reportage in a market in Yaoundé, where products are sold outdoors, we better understand the danger of counterfeit and contraband products sold on the street in Cameroon markets.
At the Foundi market in Yaoundé, on a Wednesday afternoon, at the bottom of an alley flooded with mud and dead leaves, a small group of people find themselves in front of a stall where there are different varieties of milk-based sweets, at least what they appear to be, are exposed.
Among the customers is Hervé, flattered by the prices of these products sold by the hour, he prefers to be content, he says, with pleasing his children rather than thinking about the risks it entails.
“In reality, what attracts me a lot more is the price. You know, when you have children at home and you have products at affordable prices, the first reflex is to buy the quantity to please as many people as possible,” he explains.
At the other end of the market, we meet Hermann. To his right, the young baker holds a plastic bag full of bread. He also just bought a tin of condensed milk sold in wheelbarrows.
The expiry date is no longer visible on the box. But for him it’s just a detail. “Because we have been living in this counterfeit for a long time, from an early age. And we are not dead from it.”
Among the products at risk reported for the dubious composition in terms of health standards, the National Laboratory for the Quality Control of Medicines and Skills (Lanacom) of the Cameroonian Ministry of Health detects adulterated whiskeys, counterfeit wines, but also soft drinks, therefore – called natural juices and fresh creams.
The products sold by Audrey Boris in the heart of the market. “I make my own cream with dyes and flavors with sugar and stabilizers,” she says.
“These juices are delivered to me and I sell them. I don’t have a notice that lets you know what the composition of these juices is, what impact these juices have on populations,” points out another seller.
However, according to Lanacom, these dubiously manufactured products expose the consumer to serious illnesses.
The sphinx always rises from its ashes
To stem the phenomenon, the control and repression brigade of the Cameroonian Ministry of Commerce regularly dismantles the pharmacies that produce these goods in the neighborhoods. But as soon as one head is severed, another emerges.
Dr. Rose Ngono Mballa, Director General of the National Laboratory for Quality Control and Medicines Competence of the Ministry of Health (Lanacom), explains the difficulties related to the regulations.
“Le problème est là. Comme vous le savez, il ya de petites entreprises clandestines à droite et à gauche qui fabriquent des boissons gazeuses ou hygiéniques ou des jus frelatés, même des boissons alcooliques. Ce qui est dangereux”, affirme-t- Lei .
According to her, these products “contain harmful substances because they are not always kept in good condition, or because the materials or ingredients used are not of good quality”.
“And very often the dyes and sweeteners used are banned. This is really a public health problem,” he admits.
The pathologies caused
Various pathologies are observed in populations who regularly consume these products.
“There are many problems. There are digestive problems, including bloating. There are also problems with premature death since when it comes to toxins, for example alcohol and adulterated products, we are more with methanoic derivatives that cause severe acidosis for transformation of the methanol that are formed … “
“So all of this produces early deaths. We have poisoning, poisoning. We also have cancer, hepatitis. We have reflux and more and more, we have obesity in terms of very sweet products since the minimum sugar in hygienic drinks must be between 25 and 30g “, explains Dr. Rose Ngono Mballa.
Dr. Rose Ngono Mballa has listed a number of strong measures to be taken to stop the commercialization of these harmful products:
- Institutions specializing in quality control must have the technical and financial means to strengthen control.
- The three pillars of the national quality infrastructure must be well individualized, implemented independently and function interdependently.
- Market monitoring policy needs to be strengthened with sample collection programs and national control and awareness campaigns.
- It is necessary to train and strengthen the teams of sworn inspectors and to multiply the descents to the ground.