FDA uncovers expired food items allegedly being fed to Zuarungu SHS students

Zuarungu SHS, Bolgatanga East District.

Ghana’s Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) has uncovered and impounded some food items said to have passed their expiry dates from the storerooms of the Zuarungu Senior High School in the Upper East region.

The expired food items were seized and taken away when an FDA team appeared unannounced on the school’s campus in the Bolgatanga East District on Monday, 22 April 2024.

The items, some of which expired in 2022 and early this year, include 11 boxes of ‘Free SHS’ mackerel, 2 bags of Royal Gold Hard Wheat Flour, 3 boxes of Pavani Evaporated Filled Milk, 4 boxes of Paka Tomato Paste and 24 tins of Queen Pilchards in Tomato Sauce.

Some of the expired food items were not even approved by the FDA, implying that those who reportedly consumed them swallowed the items both unapproved and expired.

The school’s administration block.

The head of the FDA’s office in the region, Sebastian Mawuli Hotor, told Media Without Borders on Wednesday that the office went to the school after receiving “intelligence that there were these unwholesome products that were being fed to the students at the Zuarungu Senior High School”.

How FDA found the expired items

When the FDA officials arrived at the school on Monday, they met with one of the assistant headmasters, the school’s matron and the storekeeper.

The officials requested to inspect the school’s kitchen and its main storeroom. When they inspected the two places, they did not find any evidence corroborating the intelligence received.

But, suspecting the school still had some other spaces being used as storerooms, the FDA team insisted on inspecting them as well.

A section of the school’s campus.

The three school staff members said the school did not have any other storeroom apart from the one the unexpected visitors had already seen, entered and inspected.

Having done a routine inspection at the same school sometime back, the FDA officials remembered that the school had more than just one storeroom. So, they reminded their uncomfortable hosts of the previous operation and insisted on entering those rooms for inspection.

At that point, the defence and the denial crumbled. The FDA officials were taken to the rooms and, on entering there, they were greeted by the sight of not only food items that were expired but also those whose packages were dented, rusted and disintegrated.  

FDA to visit other schools for inspection

“This is what is happening in some of the boarding schools in the region. When milk, for instance, is expired, those handling the kitchens keep the secret from the students. To avoid the students detecting the milk is expired, they don’t place the expired milk right in the hands of the students.

“Those handling the kitchen rather pour the expired milk in the porridge at the kitchen themselves, stir it together and call the students to come and carry the unwholesome porridge to the dining halls and serve themselves,” a source told Media Without Borders’ Edward Adeti.

The FDA boss said the expired items were in the custody of the FDA pending safe disposal as part of its mandate.

The school is one of the old second-cycle institutions in the region.

“For every form of safe disposal, we supervise it in collaboration with other partners including the Environmental Protection Agency, Environmental Health, the Ghana National Fire Service and the Ghana Police Service.

“We are doing further inspection around the other schools that are in the region. We are in talks with the regional director of education and heads of schools. It is likely that these samples are in the other schools if they have not been consumed by now,” he said.

He said the matter was under investigation and, when asked about the fate of the authorities of the Zuarungu Senior High School, disclosed that the case had been referred to the FDA’s legal affairs department.

“There are penalties and sanctions when anybody contravenes the laws that protect safety and public health,” he stated. “There are procedures when it comes to things like this and we have a legal department that is currently working on it to take them (the school’s authorities) through the process.”

It is found along the Bolgatanga-Bawku-Pulmakom Road.

When Media Without Borders telephoned the school’s headmistress, Umuhari Adams Abubakari, on Wednesday for comment, she said she was not ready for an interview because her location at the time was not suitable for it. She ended the call before she could be asked to propose a suitable time for the interview.

But she is said to have told the FDA team during a meeting, which was reportedly held after the items were uncovered and confiscated, that the school’s management was unaware there were some expired food items in the school’s storerooms.

Source: Edward Adeti/Media Without Borders/mwbonline.org


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