Thursday, February 07, 2008

Cooking With Poison

Cut-price cooking oil used in most Malian households has been found to contain gossypol, a toxic substance that is known to cause sterility, cancer and inhibit growth.The majority of Malians buy the oil for cooking since, at an average of US$1.25 a litre, it is about half the price of imported oils.
Only two out of 57 oil producers studied around the country had the necessary equipment to produce safely-refined cooking oil , the rest were producing oil containing gossypol, a harmful poison.

Adama Haidara doctor at the Hope Clinic, a medical centre in Sikoro near Bamako, backed this up, stressing it is also linked to cardiac arrests and cancer. “The risks to the consumer after a long period of absorption of non-refined oil are enormous.”

The government has ordered producers to update their equipment, but not all can afford to and some have been forced to shut down production for good.

"The government had no controls in place, no follow-up, nothing…the quality of the oil produced, and the health of consumers mattered little to it,” said Seydou Samaké, a Bamako resident who used to frequently cook with the oil.
“The doctor has arrived after the death. It’s always like that. It took us being poisoned for the government to intervene,” complained Oumar Traoré, a member of the Mali Coalition for the Protection of Consumers (REDECOMA).

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