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4 questions answered about the testing of instant noodles by the Nigerian Food and Drug Administration after Asia scare

Noodles are popular in Nigeria.

This article is more than 1 year old

After Nigeria’s National Agency for Food and Drug Administration (Nafdac) announced that it would test locally made noodles, claims that the popular Indomie brand of noodles had been banned have gone viral online.

Nafdac's move on 2 May 2023 followed a recall of Indomie’s “special flavour” noodles by the Taiwanese and Malaysian health ministries. This came after health officials from the two East Asian countries said they had found ethylene oxide, a potentially carcinogenic substance, in Indomie “special chicken” flavour noodles.

Ethylene oxide is a colourless gas used in the manufacture of certain products, such as plastics, detergents and adhesives. It is also used to sterilise medical equipment.

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, prolonged exposure to the gas poses a risk of certain types of cancer.

Taiwan's health authority said it had inspected 25 imported and five domestic instant noodle products at various shops and markets in the country, and the residual ethylene oxide content found in two samples did not comply with regulations.

It found one brand from Malaysia and one from Indonesia to be non-compliant.

Nafdac said in a statement on 2 May that it would test for ethylene oxide in a random sampling and analysis of Nigerian instant noodles and their seasonings.

We look at four questions you might have and what Nafdac's statement says about its move to test locally produced noodles.

1. Did Nafdac ban locally made Indomie noodles?

Nafdac said the Indomie “special flavour” noodle was not registered with the agency for sale in Nigeria. 

Noodles were on the Nigerian government's list of banned goods that could not be imported into the country, according to the statement.

“The public is also hereby informed that the implicated Indomie Instant Noodles ‘Special Chicken Flavour’ is not registered by Nafdac for sale in Nigeria. It is important to mention that noodles are on the Import Prohibition List of the Federal Government of Nigeria and is therefore not permitted for importation to Nigeria.”

It said the Indomie instant noodles and other brands of noodles registered with the agency were all locally produced and complied with good manufacturing practices.

The spokesperson for Dufil Prima foods, which makes Indomie in Nigeria, Temitope Ashiwaju, told the media its noodles were not imported but produced locally in the country. 

2. What is the relationship between foreign and locally made Indomie noodles?

The brand name Indomie originally belonged to Indofood, the world’s largest producer of instant noodles, based in Indonesia.

Indomie chicken-flavour noodles were first sold in 1972, but many other varieties have since been produced. 

Indomie noodles were first introduced to Nigeria in 1988 via exports, but local production began in 1995 by Dufil Prima Foods, a joint venture between Indofood, Tolaram and Kellogg’s.

3. Why is Nafdac testing locally produced instant noodles?

The agency says it is testing locally produced noodles and their seasonings, for the same ethylene oxide substance flagged by the Taiwan and Malaysian authorities.

The gas has been linked to an increased risk of certain types of cancers, including breast cancer, myeloma, and lymphocytic leukaemia.

Ashiwaju said locally produced Indomie noodles were safe for consumption and the company had been working with Nafdac and other regulatory bodies to ensure this.

“In the past 25 years, we have been producing and manufacturing Indomie noodles in Nigeria and we have done well,” he said. 

4. Is Nafdac only testing instant noodles from Indomie?

Nafdac said it would carry out random sampling of locally produced noodles and their seasonings, of Indomie and other brands.

It said a thorough investigation would be carried out in both factories and markets and the results would be communicated.

By one industry estimate, Nigeria ranked 11th in demand for noodles. 

According to the estimates, demand in the country increased from 1.73 billion servings in 2017 to 2.62 billion servings in 2021.

There are several brands of noodles in the country. The most popular ones include Indomie, Chikki, Minimie, Honeywell, Mimee and Golden Penny. 

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