All appropriate and concerned authorities waging war against fake, expired food and drugs are urged to create a fast, easy and enabling environment, and devise a technological means for the general public to report any suspected act of expiration date relabeling.


Lately, Nigeria has witnessed increased cases of some heartless human beings with dead conscience, who have been relabeling and revalidating the dates of expired foods and drugs. The arrests of such perpetrators and the confiscations of relabeled expired drugs were carried out recently by the officials of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) and National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC). The news media has thus been awash with stories of seized expired foods and drugs. A short while ago, it was reported that N15 million worth of fake expired products was confiscated in Nasarawa State. In June this year, the NCS and NAFDAC destroyed N100 million worth of expired medicaments and other items at the Seme command of the NCS. Some expired goods worth N80 million were also destroyed in Abuja in the same month by NAFDAC. It was revealed that some of the products were voluntarily submitted by companies and individuals, while others were seized through enforcement activities.

It is scary to note that while concerned agencies are making efforts to thwart the activities of peddlers of expired products, some relabeled expired food and drugs would have still made their ways to the markets without the agencies’ knowledge. Only the perpetrators nabbed in these nefarious acts made the news. So the big question is: How do consumers identify and recognise relabeled or revalidated food and drugs? Let us now attempt some answers to that multimillion naira poser.

Expiry and best-before dates are interchangeably being used by manufacturers to convey a time when a product is at its peak performance or is no longer fit for consumption. Technically, there is a slight difference: Expiry dates show the last day that is expected for a product to be used or consumed, while best-before date indicates that as from that date, the product’s freshness, along with its potent qualities, are no longer guaranteed. The expiry date of a product is safety-based, while the best-before date is quality driven. Both are however important, no matter the terminology or wording used by the manufacturer’s label on the product.

…drugs are to be kept in a cool and dry place in order to take care of their exposure to temperature and moisture. Expiry date labels on products only hold true for unopened or sealed products but when a sealed product has been opened, the best-before date can no longer be relied on.


A product’s expiry date or best-before date is usually determined by the shelf life of that product. According to a U.S. Food and Administration website, ‘a product’s shelf life generally means the length of time you can expect a product to look and act as expected and stay safe for use. The length of time varies depending on the type of product, how it is used and how it is stored’.

Personal care products, cosmetics, daily needs, foods, beverages, drugs, toiletries and other consumables and perishables all have varying shelf lives based on product content, raw material quality and sanitary conditions. Temperature, water and air are the main factors which determine the storage and shelf life of a product. For example, drugs are to be kept in a cool and dry place in order to take care of their exposure to temperature and moisture. Expiry date labels on products only hold true for unopened or sealed products but when a sealed product has been opened, the best-before date can no longer be relied on.

It is observed that some personal care products like cosmetics, perfumed body spray, makeup and moisturisers, apart from the expiration dates printed on the product’s label, still have some symbols stamped on them, providing more information on the product’s shelf life. Some cosmetics and body spray containers have a little jar icon having a symbol PAO (Period After Opening), which tells that product’s shelf life after its being opened. This PAO is often shown in months and appears as a number followed by the letter ‘M’ printed on the open jar icon or below it. This is commonly seen in lotion and shower gel bottles. The period-after-opening (PAO) symbol shows cosmetic products’ useful lifetimes after their first opening.

The need for expiry date label checks cannot be overemphasised as consumers are duty-bound to examine the safety of food and drugs before their purchase and consumption of these. Foods, particularly poultry and meat, taken well past their expiry dates may trigger food poisoning…


The need for expiry date label checks cannot be overemphasised as consumers are duty-bound to examine the safety of food and drugs before their purchase and consumption of these. Foods, particularly poultry and meat, taken well past their expiry dates may trigger food poisoning and result in symptoms like fever, vomiting, cramping in stomach area, dehydration and diarrhea. However, some expired products will pose no health problems if consumed as such; rather they would have degraded to a lower quality, depending on the food type. A school of thought believes that the effectiveness of a drug may decrease over time but much of the original potency still remains even a decade after the expiration date. Some drugs (especially liquid drugs and antibiotics) are excluded from this category of active drugs after expiry. This is because their potency ends at expiration. Other experts advise consumers to discard all expired drugs, despite post-expiration potency, to avoid any risk of health challenges from their consumption.

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All appropriate and concerned authorities waging war against fake, expired food and drugs are urged to create a fast, easy and enabling environment, and devise a technological means for the general public to report any suspected act of expiration date relabeling. The investigation and enforcement unit and intelligence gathering and analysis division of NAFDAC should step up their games through information gathered to outwit the antics of those who relabel expired products.

Kayode Ojewale wrote in via kayodeojewale@gmail.com