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Health News: Ensuring food safety

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In commemoration of this year’s World Food Safety Day, the Director-General of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye, has enjoined Nigerians to boost their immunity by eating safe, wholesome and nutritious foods. The NAFDAC boss, who stated this during the agency’s marking of the 4th World Food Safety Day 2022, said that only safe and wholesome foods could assure nutritional goals.

Similarly, the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, used the occasion to enjoin farmers and food operators to seek professional advice on the application of additives, agro feeds, agro chemicals, hygiene and good agricultural practices. He also pointed out that food security will be a ruse without food safety. The minister disclosed that Nigeria and other countries lose about $95 billion in productivity because of illness, disability and premature deaths suffered by workers as a result of the intake of unsafe food. He observed that the health burden of food-borne diseases can only be compared to malaria and HIV/AIDS.

The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) established the World Food Safety Day in 2018 to raise awareness on the importance of food safety. The event has been celebrated since June 7, 2019 and the theme of the maiden edition was “Food Safety, Everyone’s Business.” Apart from helping to protect consumer from the risk of food-borne diseases, it protects consumers from food allergy and even death.

Since inception, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) have jointly facilitated the observance of the World Food Safety Day in collaboration with member states and other relevant organisations. In keeping with FAO’s aim, this year’s World Food Safety Day is yet another opportunity to strengthen global efforts to ensure that people consume safe foods, mainstream food safety in the public agenda and reduce the burden of food-borne diseases.

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Celebrated on June 7 every year, the event, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), is used to draw global attention and inspire action to prevent, detect and manage food-borne risks and improve human health. The theme of this year’s World Food Safety Day, “Safer Food, Better Health,” is tailored to sensitise the people on the need to eat right and make healthy food choices. Also, it specifically underlines the role of safe and nutritional food in ensuring human health and overall wellbeing.

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) fact sheet, access to sufficient amounts of safe food is key to sustaining life and promoting good health. Therefore, this year’s event is a clarion call on all people to ensure food safety in work places, schools and day-care centres, traditional food markets, and in street food vending.

Available figures show that there are about 600 million cases of food-borne illnesses annually. It has also been estimated that about 420,000 people around the world die every year on account of eating contaminated food, while children under five years of age carry 40 per cent of the food-borne disease burden, with 125,000 deaths annually.

We urge the federal, state and local governments to carry out a nationwide enlightenment campaign on food-borne diseases and the need to ensure safety food in the home, schools, markets, work places, event centres and other places where people eat food. The campaign should target private food vendors, popularly known as ‘mama put’ and other such food joints that dot virtually all parts of the country.

The public health department should do a lot in this regard. It is the duty of the nation’s health authorities to ensure that the foods that Nigerians consume are safe right from production to harvest, as well as from processing to distribution and preparation and consumption. In fact, the overall goal of food safety is to ensure that every food consumed must be made to stay safe at every stage of the food chain.

All hands must be on deck to ensure food safety. Therefore, food safety is the responsibility of all. Above all, there is need for food safety and nutritional education at all levels of the nation’s education system.

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