The bottled water industry
I was shocked when a friend told me she just received her consignment of bottled water, imported from the United Kingdom. When I asked why she was importing bottled water, which is readily available in most supermarkets in Nigeria, she told me she was used to this brand of water, having spent a considerable part of her adult life in the United Kingdom.
If a survey of most supermarkets in several cities of the country was done; one would find several brands of bottled water, both locally manufactured and imported.
In as much as doctors recommend that we drink eight to 10 glasses of water daily, the huge amounts of foreign exchange being washed down the drain importing different brands of bottled water is mind blowing.
In Nigeria there is water everywhere, but none fit to drink, as Poet Coleridge would say were he to take us today through his classic Ancient Marina. Few cities in Nigeria actually have running taps; most of the state governments have failed to provide the most basic of human needs, among which is portable drinking water for their citizenry. In the rural areas, most of our people resort to ‘’pure water“, which is water packaged in sachets more often than not obtained from dubious sources.
Most average Nigerian homes have water dispensers, and buy refills from neighborhood stores. This thriving business is for the most part unregulated. It is not known which agency of government, NAFDAC or the Ministry of Water Resource is mandated to test for bacteria, chemicals and other contaminants in this refill water.
Most of these water dispensers are not routinely maintained and cleaned out. As a result, they become reservoirs of bacteria. Most of the owners do not realize that the dispensers need to be cleaned out with water and bleach routinely.
If I may digress a little; if you are going to pay for a product you could get free it is wise to know what you are buying. The flavored waters crowding supermarket shelves, with their pretty packaging are often tempting. There are several claims of health benefits and nutritional benefits. Some are packed with calories, sugar and artificial sweeteners, colors and preservatives.
There are different types of bottled water.
Spring Water: this is one of the most common types when a manufacturer calls it spring water; it means that the source of this water is from an underground formation of rocks, where natural water flows to the earth’s surface, like the Ikogosi spring water in Ondo State. One would have to verify to confirm if any of the bottled water being produced in Nigeria is gotten directly from spring formations. Water gotten from a borehole or tap cannot be said to be spring water.
Mineral Water: this water is similar to spring water, and contains minerals and other dissolved substances. This is gotten from the spring and typically should be bottled at the source and should contain at least 250 parts per million total dissolved solids, according to the Food and Drug Agency.
Sparkling Water: this is water that has been carbonated and is bubbling and fizzy, containing carbon dioxide that has been dissolved in it, and is often used in mixed drinks.
Distilled Water: this is one that has been distilled and does not contain as much impurities as the other water and is much cleaner than other types of bottled water. However, one drawback with it is that it lacks distillation process.
Deionized Water: this type of water is similar to distilled water, where the impurities are removed by mineral ions. In the process of distilling minerals like calcium, which are beneficial may be eliminated.
Flavored Water: this is water that has some nutrients and a flavor added to them. It is fast becoming popular amongst the young and upward mobile Nigerians. It has taste and the added benefits of minerals. It is often advertised as an alternative to juices and soft drinks. It is advisable to read its nutritional label to ascertain the amount of sugar and sodium that it contains, and to remember that it also contains some calories like other drinks, high fructose, and artificial sweeteners.
DIY flavored waters are a healthy and cheaper alternative to store bought ones. You can go online and find several recipes, which you can make in the comfort of your home. The coconut water bug has caught a number of people, and the latest trend is plant flavored bottled water. These are touting their product as having low calories and sugar; they are alternatives to coconut water, which has about 45 calories and II grams of sugar.
There are several risks associated with bottled water, and they are sometimes not as pure as people are made to believe. It has been established that dangerous toxins are likely to leach into the water from the plastic.
In Nigeria, most of the small stores that carry the refills for the dispenser water and other plastic bottled water leave them in the sun, outside their shops. The danger in this is that it causes a chemical change in the water, not to mention the toll the packaging of water takes on the environment.
The irony to this is that people who do have access to portable water, either through their personal boreholes or the city water, can through some simple purification system like filters attached to their taps, ensure a clean fresh supply of drinking water without all the frills and thrills.
Food expiration date: What you should know.
Food expiration dates are set by manufacturers as guide to retailers to help them determine how long to keep a product on their shelves. It also helps the consumer know when the food is no longer at its peak quality.
Some terms are commonly used. A “Sell by date” tells the shop how long to display the product for sale; it is recommended that the consumer should buy the product before the date expires.
A “Use by date” is the last date recommended for the use of the product, determined by the manufacturer.
A “Best if used by date” is the date recommended for best flavor or quality.
If food smells or looks spoiled, don’t eat it, even if it hasn’t reached its use- by date; also, if food is mishandled or stored inappropriately. Food-borne bacteria can grow and cause food-borne illness before or after the date on the package.
If you go shopping for perishable food like meat, chicken or fish it is advisable to do so going with a cooler packed with ice to keep the food at the right temperature. Alternatively, immediately after purchase go home and refrigerate it promptly. Do not buy perishable foods if the color is greenish or brown, or it smells. Most times with the irregular power supply, it is possible these perishable foods could have being improperly stored.
Antibiotics in meat and chicken
The Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development states on its website, its mission is transforming the agricultural sector to create jobs, create wealth and ensure food security, and focus on agriculture as a business.
It is the arm of government saddled with the responsibility of overseeing livestock, fisheries, trees, crops and ensures food safety.
That brings me to the question of who is responsible for regulating the use of antibiotics in animal farm. Many farmers who raise cattle and chicken use antibiotics to treat their animals and birds that are sick. They also use them to fatten the animals, and more especially chickens, which are massively reared commercially.
Concerns about raising animals with antibiotics are becoming rampant. The use of antibiotics increases the risk of bacteria spreading to human beings when meat is not properly handled and cooked. These days many Nigerians patronize fast food restaurants, which source their meat from these commercial farmers. In view of the increase in alarming antibiotic usage, what is advisable is we choose free-range organic chickens.
NAFDAC, which is statutorily mandated to regulate the food and drug environment, should also be domiciled in the Federal Ministry of Health. NAFDAC is stretched to its limit in trying to curb the activities of drug barons to adequately police the food industry, which is growing rapidly.
As the regulation of food safety would appear to have taken a back seat to pay more attention to the war against fake drugs, there is need to split the agency into two with the food agency handled by experts from the Federal Ministry of Agriculture.