Posted Date:: 15.01.2008 @00:40 EAT Cotton cooking oil puts men's fertility at stake By Patty Magubira, Mwanza THE CITIZEN Widespread production of unrefined cottonseed oil is said to pose serious health problems, with experts saying the substandard cooking oil could to lead to infertility among men. Production of unrefined cottonseed oil is especially prevalent in Lake Zone regions where unscrupulous producers target both the local and export markets. Industry, Trade and Marketing permanent secretary Stegormena Tax-Bamwenda said yesterday that there was scientific proof that the oil contained gossypol, a harmful compound that could cause infertility in men. The harmful chemical can only be eliminated when cottonseed oil is fully refined. Gossypol is a natural toxin present in the cotton plant that protects it from insects. Its name is derived from the scientific name of cotton and phenol, its main chemical structure. Research shows that the chemical also leads to the reduction of potassium in the blood thus impairing blood pressure, according to Ms Tax-Bamwenda. She was speaking to over 20 businesspeople engaged in the processing of cottonseed cooking oil in Lake Zone regions. Ms Tax-Bamwenda observed that some businesspeople dealing in cottonseed oil were supplying raw and semi-refined oil, which were not recommended for human consumption. Oil extracted from seeds of the plant dubbed �white gold in Lake Zone regions were available in three grades, but only the refined version is recommended for human consumption. She directed oil millers who were not capable of refining lower grades to send their oil to other factories that had refining equipment. The cottonseed oil processors converged here yesterday for a one-day seminar on the control and management of the product for the safety of consumers and their own competitiveness in the market. Ms Tax-Bamwenda directed the Tanzania Bureau of Standard (TBS) to enforce the cottonseed oil standard number TZS 53 set in 1979, which compels oil millers to label oil products supplied to the market according to grades. The standard also gives guidelines on cooking oils meant for human consumption and their packaging and preservation, she said, adding that a label should be attached to cottonseed oil containers supplied to the market. The permanent secretary also directed TBS to scale up its public awareness programme on grades of cottonseed cooking oil to safeguard the health of consumers and bolster the competitiveness of local millers. Adherence to standards among oil millers was important in market economy because it enabled local investors to survive and contribute effectively to the national economy, she said. She commended TBS for organising the seminar, saying many countries had succeeded in the fight against substandard goods through similar strategies of educating manufacturers and consumers alike. Cottonseed oil is widely produced and consumed in Lake Zone regions.