TWO traders who have been selling a banned drug, potassium bromate popularly known as "para" or "power", to bakers to bake bread have been arrested by the Sunyani police.
The perpetrators, Rita Tawiah and Vivian Boakye, were arrested at their various shops at the Chiraa Lorry Station in Sunyani, following routine operations by officials from the Brong Ahafo Zonal Office of the Food and Drugs Board (FDB) in collaboration with the police to ensure public safety.
They have been granted police inquiry bail pending further investigations into the matter.
Potassium bromate, which has been banned in many countries, including Ghana since the 1990s, is said to have serious health implications for human beings when consumed. It has also been identified as the major cause of kidney-related diseases.
The drug has the sensory effect to strengthen the dough, making it rise higher, thereby, making the bread heavier and more elastic. It is also used to make poor quality flour appear like a quality one.
These qualities of the drug have encouraged some unscrupulous traders and bakers to take advantage of it to make profit from it at the expense of the health of consumers.
Briefing journalists in Sunyani, the Brong Ahafo Zonal Officer of the FDB, Mrs Nora Narkie Terlabie, who led the operation, said the FDB through its various investigations had information that certain persons and bakers were adding the banned drug (potassium bromate) to wheat flour to bake bread in the Sunyani Municipality.
She said based on the information, her office embarked on the operation leading to the arrest of the traders.
According to her, it was within the mandate of the FDB to ensure that unwholesome and banned drugs such as the potassium bromate that had health implications were not sold to the public.
Mrs Terlabie called on the public to assist the FDB by providing credible information on such activities to help them to protect the consumer.
She also advised bakers to desist from using bromate but instead use ascorbic acid to get the same effect without harming consumers.
She stated that potassium bromate had been banned in many countries as a carcinogen from 1990, adding that the FDB had food additive and contaminants regulations which were based on international best practices to assess the safety of food products.
That, Mrs Terlabie said, led to the ban on the usage of potassium bromate in 1995 as an additive in bread due to its carcinogenic effect on human beings.
She added that the product was also banned in the United Kingdom in 1990, Canada in 1994, Sri Lanka in 2001 and China in 2005 while Nigeria, Brazil and Pru had all banned its usage.
Mrs Terlabie gave the assurance that the Zonal Office of the FDB would intensify its education and monitoring this year to heighten the awareness.
During interrogation, the arrested traders told the police that they bought the bromate from Kumasi to sell to the bakers in the municipality who had been requesting for it.