Ensuring food safety in Lagos through policy compliance
As part of efforts to ensure food safety and ward of contamination, the Lagos State Ministry of Health has launched a food safety campaign. They said unsafe food poses global health threats, endangers everyone including infants, young children, pregnant women and the elderly among others.
Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health, Dr. Olusegun Ogboye, at a seminar organize by the Directorate of Environmental Health Services, an arm of the Ministry, which brought together a large number of stakeholders in food industry with a view to sensitising them on the approved Lagos State Ministry of Health’s stringent conditions on food safety, said the importance of food for human growth and nourishment is inexhaustible to achieve a healthy lifestyle, likewise, the effects of consuming unwholesome food that contains infectious or toxic substances is injurious to health.
“Maintaining the highest standards of hygienic standards while working with food components prohibit/control the spread and multiplication of altering and pathogenic micro organisms,” he said.
Ogboye, who was represented by Dr. Tolu Ajomale, submitted that food safety is of crucial importance to everyone and more so to the manufacturers of processed products, hotels, eateries, supermarkets, aerated water factories, bakeries, butcheries or slaughter houses among others, adding that food is one of the most traded goods in the world and as such, an average Nigerian patronise food vendors at least two to three times daily.
The theme of the seminar is “Food Safety: “A Call for Active Participation.” Ogboye warned that unsafe product can result in legal actions by consumers and/or unwanted publicity that adversely affect a broad range of the company’s products and reputations, while producing and selling an unsafe product may also result in regulatory actions as well as the closure of the business, hence, to avoid such possibilities and to fulfill commitment to public welfare, food manufacturers and handlers are expected to devote significant resources to ensuring the production of safe food products at all levels.
He noted that achieving Greater Lagos 2020 was premised on the role of Food establishments that had been identified as germane to public health and State image, and revealed that a tool, Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP), has been adopted by the State Government to aid production of safe food/water/beverages through the food safety management system, adding that the Environmental Health Enforcement Officers are the food regulators charged when ensuring food safety to protect the health and well-being of the unsuspecting public in the State.
“The Directorate of Environmental Health Services in the Ministry is saddled with the responsibility of ensuring food safety and hygiene and has been empowered solely to carry out review, auditing and certification of the adopted food safety management system. HACCP, amongst other activities in the State targets the prevention of food borne diseases, prolonging life and creating supportive environment,” he said.
In his keynote address, the Director, Environmental Health Services, Dr. Theophilus Ajayi, said that in recent times, statistics gathered from routine inspections has shown a level of decline in compliance to food safety, which is of great concern to the State, adding that the level of acceptance of adopted Food Safety Management System (HACCP) by the regulated food premises has been poor in correlation with past projections.
He intimated the stakeholders of the Directorate’s responsibility of inspecting their locations twice annually without notice of inspection and that a list of Ministry of Health’s requirements will be sent to regulate food premises, pre-informing them for adequate preparation. He remarked that interactions with the stakeholders in the course of inspection would either be corrective or punitive, depending on the co-operation and strict compliance with HACCP guidelines of the stakeholders.
Ajayi described HACCP as an internationally recognised method of identifying and managing food safety related risk and a systematic preventive approach to food safety from biological, chemical, and physical hazards in production processes, through identifying where hazards might occur, which can cause the finished product to be unsafe, designs measurements to reduce these risks to a safe level by putting in place strictly monitoring and controlling processes while HACCP plans is a written document that outlines the hazards associated with a product, incoming materials, ingredients and process steps and how they are controlled. It also identifies the processes that are critical to ensuring food safety, adding that the HACCP plans determine critical control points in a specific operation of food handling.
He listed the benefits of HACCP to include increased food safety, meeting customer/retailer requirements, maintained and improved market access among others.Ajayi disclosed that upon the submission of the HACCP Plan or Food Safety Policy Document, the documents shall be reviewed and the premises will be audited while HACCP certificates would be issued to establishment that are compliant.
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