On Wednesday, 4 March 2020, the salmonella-infected gizzards which were impounded at the Port of Tema, were finally destroyed.
A task team consisting of the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority, Ghana Ports & Harbours Authority, National Security, Ports Health Services, and the Bureau of National Investigation destroyed the infested gizzards along with four other containers of unhealthy animal products at the Kpone Dumping Site.
The contaminated items were originally set to be destroyed on 17 February already but a number of obstacles delayed the process.
Ghanian importers were pushing contaminated products
The saga of the salmonella-infected gizzards started when officials of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) intercepted a 40-foot container filled with salmonella-infected chicken gizzards at the Tema Port. The interception was possible thanks to a tip-off from Brazilian authorities after two Ghanian food importers bought the gizzards from Brazil. Unfortunately, the importers were successful in clearing 3 of the 4 containers before undercover work revealed their dubious activities, releasing a significant amount of infected poultry into the market.
No import permit was in place
After the containers were intercepted, the Director of Veterinary Services at MoFA, Dr. Kwabena Asiedu-Baah, stated that it was very unfortunate that the veterinary service was in no way involved in the inspection of animal-derived products that were coming into the country. He continued that consumption of the salmonella-infected gizzards could be extremely dangerous to humans, especially children and those older than 60. The ministry further found that the gizzards were imported without the correct permits and veterinary health certificates, complicating the case even further. The Bureau of National Investigations has since initiated formal investigations into the two companies responsible for bringing the contaminated goods into the country.
A quota system is needed
In an interview following the interception of the contaminated gizzards, Micahel Nyarko Ampen, the President of the Greater Accra Poultry Farmers Association (GAPFA), condemned the importation of the infected goods. He urged authorities to bring the individuals responsible to book as their actions compromised the health and safety of countless Ghanaians. Mr Ampen reiterated how important it is for the government to introduce a structured quota system that would, in essence, reduce the annual poultry imports to Ghana by approximately 80%. Such a quota system will encourage local poultry farmers to produce sufficient poultry products of a high quality to fill the gaps left by the decrease in imports. Ampen stated: “If these gizzards were produced locally, it would have been easier for the authorities to trace the producers and demand accountability. It becomes difficult to trace the culprits of the imported product.”
A ban on imports can also boost the economy
The GAPFA is not the only institution calling for poultry imports to Ghana to be either reduced significantly, or completely banned. According to Gifty Rodor, President of Greater Accra Women in Poultry, banks in Ghana are not willing to provide funding to local poultry farmers due to the import of poultry from countries such as Brazil. The diminutive market for local poultry, compared to the foreign one is discouraging banks from investing. In order to encourage investment and grow the local market while also avoiding catastrophes lie the contaminated gizzards one, it is important that the government bans the imports of poultry to the country.
The consequences could have been dire
Although the Food and Drugs Authority stated that the infected gizzards were no cause for alarm, salmonella poisoning can prove to be very serious in certain instances. The symptoms of an infection typically appear anywhere between 6 hours and 6 days after eating contaminated food. Among the most common symptoms are fever, nausea, diarrhea, and severe stomach cramps. In some instances, dehydration occurs and hospitalization is necessary. If anyone became sick thanks to the gizzards, illness would have lasted anywhere between 4 and 7 days. Thankfully, no instances of contamination-related illness were reported. This may be due to the fact that cooking the gizzards thoroughly would have killed off any bacteria present in it according to James Lartey, the head of Corporate Affairs at the FDA.