‘Red Red’ patronage suffers over Sudan dye IV in palm oil

BY: Hadiza Nuhhu-Billa Quansah
Image Credit: ibike.org

Most people love to eat gari and beans, popularly known as ‘Red Red’ or ‘yoo ke gari’, with a little palm oil to go with it.

However, given the current situation of palm oil being adulterated, some ‘Red Red’ lovers are shying away from the delicacy.

The crave for ‘Red Red’ is going down as a result of greed and wickedness among some palm oil sellers who  exploit  consumers and contaminate it with dangerous additives such as the cancer-causing Sudan dye IV also known as ‘sudee.’

In every school and college, at the markets, construction sites and other workplaces, there is a ‘Red Red’ joint that people love to patronise.

Most eaters of ‘Red Red’ prefer to eat their favourite meal first thing in the morning, as it is believed, to serve as ‘foundation’ for the stomach, after which all they do is to drink water most part of the day.

As Rita, a dressmaker at Odawna, put it: “Red Red is a whole ‘concrete’ which is good for workers such as me. You don’t have to spend much, yet you will be full the whole day.”

Indeed, with ‘Red Red’, you do not have to spend a fortune as you do on other types of food such as banku with tilapia. With just GH¢3, you can have a bowl of ‘Red Red’ with fried ripe plantain.

A random check at some popular ‘Red Red’ joints in Accra revealed that most people now opt for gari and beans with plain cooking oil or shito, instead of the traditional palm oil.

Others also prefer to eat the beans with plain rice and stew or kenkey.

Nonetheless, some die hard ‘Red Red’ fans are not perturbed by the ‘sudee’ scandal, as they still prefer to eat their favourite meal with palm oil.

Daavi, a ‘Red Red’ seller at Circle who has been selling the delicacy for the past 35 years, told The Mirror that she bought her palm oil (zomi) from a relation who had been in the trade for many years.

“My uncle started the zomi business when we were young. I have three siblings who also sell beans and so we get the original zomi supplied by my uncle,” she said.

Recently, the country was hit by the news that some traders adulterated palm oil with the Sudan dye IV, a dangerous cancer-causing chemical.

The chemical was found in some samples of palm oil collected from identified markets in some parts of Accra and Tema.

Large quantities of the oil were also confiscated at the Madina, Makola No 2, Tema Community One and Ashaiman markets.

Officials of the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) said initial laboratory analyses conducted on samples of the adulterated oil showed active dye (sudee) substance of about 98 per cent.

The dye, according to the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the FDA, Mr Hudu Mogtari, had the potential of causing cancer when mixed with food and as such constituted a risk to public health.

Currently trending on social media is the use of another dangerous substance in palm oil. It is believed that some palm oil producers add candle wax to the oil to make it thicker.

While the candle wax makes the palm oil look thicker, the ‘sudee’ makes it look reddish and very appetising.

According to the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Ghana’s palm oil industry which dates back the 19th Century, produces 243,852 tonnes per year and by the 1880s accounted for 75 per cent of the country’s export revenue, not to mention wide-scale domestic consumption.

Sadly, officials in the UK recently issued alerts regarding contaminated Ghanaian oil. However, concerns about Sudan dye contamination of palm oil are not novel and a research published in the Wageningen Journal of life Sciences in 2012 noted of the palm oil industry that “in order to obtain crude palm oil with a bright red colour, which is attractive to customers, some processors adulterate the oil with Sudan dye.

“This food dye is banned in Ghana and in many other countries.”

Perhaps critical is the observation that 91 per cent of palm processors in Ghana had no formal training on good processing practices.

This might indicate why such a crisis could happen to our local palm oil industry.