The Ghana Revenue Authority on October 23, 2019, discovered a massive case of tax fraud and suppression of sales amongst other things in a Chinese-owned food and beverage company based in Tema.
Beyond the tax issues were some dangerous health implications uncovered by GhanaWeb at the DADA Food Company Limited where operations were ongoing during the arrest of two Chinese nationals – a managing director and his accomplice – for tax evasion.
GhanaWeb reporters who were at the premises saw dozens of factory hands who were not properly dressed and had no protective gear while mixing powdered food additives and chemicals to produce drinks.
They only wore orange polo shirts with their faces exposed to the chemicals in the factory which had no visible fire extinguishers in its premises – exposing them to the risk of possible fire explosion.
An interaction with some female workers who were only wearing hair net caps and directly involved in the food production revealed how ignorant they were with regards to the food items they handled and their safety.
Upon inspection of some of the products being used in the production of foods and drinks, the GhanaWeb team noticed that all the products were labelled in Chinese with very little English inscriptions which the workers had no idea what they meant. Also, expiry dates were not clearly printed on the food additives used for the drinks.
The managers of the company who were arrested for tax evasion
Some food additives left uncovered
“We don’t know what these things are, all we know is they tell us to add this and add that,” said one of the female workers who spoke to GhanaWeb on the condition of anonymity.
When asked if they ever ate or drank what they produced, she vehemently nodded in denial and said, “I have never tried drinking these things and I never will, I don’t want to die early. I only work here and that’s it.”
One of the workers at the packaging unit was captured by GhanaWeb filling drinks into their packages using her bare hands while the yellow-coloured drink spilt back into the machine.
Chemical mixture used in the beverage production
These raised several concerns over how and why persons with little or no knowledge of food production would be hired in a food production hub.
Another concern is whether the Food and Drugs Authority is fully aware of the factory’s operation and has validated its products.
With respect to the expiry dates of products, a machine which was understood to imprint the dates on the products was being operated by two female workers.
Another worker who also spoke to GhanaWeb on condition of anonymity disclosed that their bosses set new dates for every batch they produced.
“We have no idea how they do it but they just change the dates here occasionally. That’s all I can say,” said the worker.
Some of the ingredients GhanaWeb uncovered included Sodium Cyclamate which is an artificial sweetener that is 30 to 50 times sweeter than sucrose. Further search indicated that it is the least potent of the commercially used artificial sweeteners.
Tartrazine, also a synthetic lemon yellow azo dye used as a food colouring and citric acid monohydrate were also seen lying uncovered and untidy in the factory with mixing bowls that are exposed. Most of the chemicals and additives had instructions written in Chinese.
Meanwhile, several attempts by GhanaWeb to reach the FDA for comments on this development have proven futile.
Click photos for more of the health hazards at the factory which is under investigation by the GRA for tax evasion.