Lovers of fish have been warned of fake and unwholesome Tilapia fish, flooding the markets daily, with attendant serious health risks to consumers.
Tilapia is a mild-flavored, lean fish, one of the most popular specie to eat, easy to prepare and relatively economical. Tilapia fish is adaptable and can survive even in poor-quality water or overcrowded conditions. It grows quickly, which makes it popular choice for farming.
It is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids and protein, both of which are important for good health. It is a source of protein and relatively low in fat. It is also lower in sodium, calories and total fat than bacon and other processed meat.
Findings show that the unwholesome fish, which are rejects from China and other countries dumped into the country, is currently sold in Ijora area of Lagos State, mostly at night and have from there found their way into other markets across the country.
From investigations, the unwholesome fish cannot be detected by mere looks, as it looks radiant and strikes the same semblance as the pleasant types. It maintains the sunfish shape and lateral line characteristic of the Chichild family of fishes, likewise the laterally compressed and deep-bodied structure, with long dorsal fins, heavily spined at the forward.
Aside the organoleptic test carried out on the fish, there have not been any extensive tests due to lack of facilities for that purpose within the country, The Guardian. It was said that the first means of discovering the difference is the taste, as it lacks the traditional taste of Tilapia fish.
Consumption of fake Tilapia over time has been linked to the risk of harmful bacteria becoming resistant to specific antibiotics, coronary heart disease (CHD); mortality and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), among other diseases.
President, Tilapia Aquaculture Developers Association, Nigeria (TADAN), Remi Ahmed, who confirmed the development, said the imported and unwholesome Tilapia enjoys much patronage because it is cheaper, compared to local breeds.
He said: “If you go to Ijora to get the fish, they’ll first ask you if it’s imported Tilapia you want or those produced in Nigeria. The unwholesome ones are cheaper than ours, which makes people to rush them. But the fact is that they are unwholesome and inimical to health.
“They are cultivated in a bad environment, which makes them unfit for consumption, they are fed with unconventional feeds. Most of them are given lots of antibiotics and cannot be processed for Europe or US markets where they can do the traceability test of the fish, but in Africa, we really don’t care what we eat because of hunger. So that is why the unwholesome fishes find their way into Africa.”
Ahmed disclosed that based on his experience during visits to China, Tilapia is supposed to pass through a section called ville, where bones of the fish will be removed. The processing fetches them a lot of money.
So why didn’t they process the fish though the ville and send it to Europe and America, where they’ll get more money? Why export to Nigeria, where they send cheaper fish? And if you want to still test further, ask them how much the fish is sold in China? You’ll discover it is more expensive than how much it is sold in Nigeria.
“What is the rationale for the price? Why must it be cheaper here, considering the freight fee, clearing, and other logistics? Why don’t they allow it to be sold in their country, why are they exporting it to Nigeria and other countries? These are the reasons and they are actually spoiling the Nigerian Tilapia business, which is our own concern. It has started affecting business as many people who invested in the business are losing.”
Managing Director, Latia Global Investment Ltd, Mr. Nurudeen Tiamiyu, who expressed displeasure with the development, said unwholesome Tilapia is inimical to the health of Nigerians.
“Government knows how the fish comes into Nigeria, they also know where they are sold. This cannot assist the growth of Nigerian companies. Our biggest challenge is policy implementation. There is no single blueprint or document saying catfish and Tilapia importation is banned. If the government decides that for catfish and Tilapia, there will be zero tolerance for importation, it will be so. What we are saying is that if the government is saying it cannot ban the importation of fish, then it should be able to protect Tilapia and catfish.”
Aside from the health effect, the importation of fake Tilapia has been linked to the invasion of Lake Virus diseases currently ravaging Ghana and other countries.
According to Ahmed: “The Lake Virus Diseases did not get there through live fish, it got there through frozen fish. Ghana is having a serious problem as far as Tilapia fish is concerned. The fact is that the disease is destroying the Tilapia business in the world today, when all fake fish find their way into any country, it will infect local production.
“Government should ban the importation of Tilapia. I can tell you that based on our campaigns against importation, we receive threats from people smuggling fish. Nigeria’s Tilapia is the best, we use standard feed, our waters are good, we have a lot of advantages, but government policies are affecting us.
“Government gave money to research institutes to research into Tilapia but they never achieved anything. Nigerians know a lot about Tilapia cultivation, but the problem is a lack of support from the government. The problem of farmers is how to sell Tilapia.”
The Lagos State Consumer Protection Agency (LASCOPA), established for the purpose of engendering a mechanism for consumers’ protection and ensuring that consumers get value for their money and create sustainable confidence in them, told The Guardian that the agency has been in the vanguard of protecting consumers’ interest since its establishment last year.
The General Manager, Mr. Kemi Olugbode disclosed at the agency’s office that the state Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu has made it the priority of his administration to ensure that the rights of consumers are protected, with a promise to ensure that foods are safe across the markets.
Public Relations Officer of the agency, Mr. Moses Ogunleye, who disclosed that the agency was established to uphold the rights of consumers in the state, said it is saddled with the mandate of ensuring speedy redress of consumer complaints through negotiation, mediation or conciliation.
He added that the agency also advise the state government on consumer protection policies; to ensure the replacement of hazardous products with safe products and seek ways and means of eliminating hazardous products from the market in conjunction with the relevant government agencies and to initiate investigation in its own name whether upon the receipt of a complaint or not, among others.
By Gbenga Akinfenwa