Food poisoning, how safe is our daily bread?

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In 2018, the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) raised alarm that beans retailers use ‘Sniper’, a common insecticide to preserve beans against weevils. The commission in its public alert statement went further to clarify that the purpose of using the insecticide is not to harm consumer but to preserve the quality of the beans for consumption.

CPC said, “There are significantly heightened risks to persons applying Sniper to the beans because of direct contact. However, risk of injury on account of consumption of beans exposed to, or treated with Sniper is also existential even though an unintended consequence.”

Retailers of various food products have reportedly used various means uncertified by authorities as safe for human consumption for the preservation of their products. For instance, some butchers in their desperate move to sell their previous day stock soak the beef in blood to appeal to buys as freshly butchered beef. This action, expert have said is dangerous and hazardous to the consumers.

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Early this year, there were reports that roadside food vendors in Lagos and Abuja use paracetamol, a pain reliever to soften meat while cooking in order to shorten the cooking process thereby reducing the fuel consumed.

Report from the Nigerian Association of Nephrology revealed that about 25 million Nigerians have kidney failure. Hypertension is a huge cause but abuse of paracetamol is also responsible.

To ensure that the quality of food consumed in the country is safe, the Federal Ministry of Health in 2019, said that the Federal Executive Council approved that Food Safety and Applied Nutrition Directorate of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) be expanded to ensure it become more efficient and effective to achieve its mandates.

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According to a Professor of Food Science and Technology, Alfred Ihenkuronye, more than 200,000 persons die of food poison in Nigeria annual. He told an online news medium in Abuja that the deaths were caused by contaminated foods through improper processing, preservation and service.

To ensure that there is drop in the statistics, NAFDAC DG, Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye, said the agency is taking initiative to ensure safe use of pesticides and agrochemicals in the country by engaging stakeholders’ awareness campaign and the institution of regulatory measures.

She said the agency has facilitated the immediate ban on importation and manufacture of (100ml pack size of Dichlorvos), a ban on the sale of DDVP in open market and supermarkets.

Since food security is part of the Sustainable Development Goals, it is important that food safety should be of high priority in Nigeria. On June 7, the World Health Organsiation (WHO) marked 2020 World Food Safety Day. The day is marked across the world to draw attention and inspire collective action to prevent, detect and manage foodborne risks, contributing to food security, human health, economic prosperity, agriculture, market access, tourism and sustainable development.

With the theme, “Food safety, everyone’s business”, WHO called for the promotion of global food safety awareness. The United Nations body challenged countries and decision makers, private sectors, civil societies and the public to take action to ensure food across the world is safe.

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“Food safety is a shared responsibility between governments, producers and consumers. Everybody has a role to play from farm to table to ensure the food we consume is safe and will not cause damages to our health.

“Though the World Food Safety Day, WHO pursues its efforts to mainstream food safety in the public agenda and reduce the burden of foodborne disease globally,” WHO said.

According to the body, about 600 million people fall sick after eating contaminated food, 420,000 die every year, while about 110 billion is lost each year in productivity and medical expenses resulting from unsafe food in low and middle income countries.

Prof. Ihenkuronye on the way forward, called for continuous sensitization and training of food handlers on how to operate in hygienic environment. “The way out is sensitization and training. We sensitise people about the enormity of the problem and train them on how to do things properly”.

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