A health expert and professor of pharmacognosy, Professor Maurice Iwu has warned Nigerians to desist from the consumption of imported rice, saying they contain heavy metals and toxins that are harmful to the body.
Professor Iwu gave the advice at the ceremony of the international conference on alternative sweeteners tagged: “Harnessing of the economic potentials of Thaumatin (Thaumatococcus danielli) in Africa,” held at Federal Institute of Industrial Research Oshodi (FIIRO) last weekend in Lagos.
Iwu who is also a former Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) disclosed that most of the countries that Nigeria imports rice from are known to have heavily contaminated soils that have been over planted over the years with a lot of chemical fertilizers.
Such soil, he stated, contain heavy metals and toxins that are not healthy to the human kidney and general wellbeing, which are transferred into the rice grains that the country imports.
“This is not anything about promoting Nigeria’s commodity, but I am talking from the scientific side of view that it is in our interest to eat made-in-Nigeria food, not just only rice, but particularly rice because of its nature. The rice grain absorbs minerals from the soil, including these harmful metals and chemicals.
“Secondly, the imported rice is polished and preserved with additional chemicals before they get here. That is why most of the imported rice look very clean and white, which is also a very bad sign,” Iwu disclosed.
Meanwhile, the Federal Institute of Industrial Research Oshodi (FIIRO) announced it has developed simple process technologies for commercial extraction and optimisation of high grade Thaumatin and Miraculin, a low calorie sweetener and flavour modifier.
Director General, FIIRO, Prof. Gloria Elemo, stated that this breakthrough was apt considering the fact that global worth of high intensity sweetener both natural and synthetic market was on the rise estimated at close to $1.3 billion in 2008 and is expected to quadruple by 2021.
Elemo who disclosed this at the opening ceremony of the International conference on alternative sweeteners, said that attention is now shifting to sourcing of alternative sweeteners mainly non-nutritive phyto chemicals from plants in order to close the gap between the production and consumption of sweeteners, sweetening and flavour enhancers.
According to her, there is increasing large segment of the population with special dietary requirements containing non-nutritive sugar, such as the diabetic patients, pointing out that over the past few decades, non-nutritive sweeteners have been gaining significance and are expected to develop into a major source of high potency sweetener for the growing natural food and pharmaceutical markets.
She added that in Nigeria, there is a huge gap between sugar production and consumption, saying this represents a serious problem since an estimated amount and quantity of 2.5 million tonnes will be imported to meet local demand.
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