‘Prevent Lassa infestation with proper food storage’
The panacea for the menace of Lassa fever rests solely on the adoption of appropriate sanitation and hygiene practices along the value chain for safe handling, packaging, and storage of food products, the Nigeria Stored Products Research Institute (NSPRI), Ilorin, Kwara State, has advised.
The Executive Director of NSPRI, Dr Patricia Pessu, said, “Without any intention of denying lovers of water-soaked garri their beloved meal, the institute requests that concerted efforts be deployed for effective hygiene and cleanliness during the processing, at marketing and household stages, by keeping the crops and products from contact with rats.”
The institute advised that fry-dried garri should be dry enough and allowed to cool before packaging in an air-tight hermetic environment such as polythene-lined jute bags and plastic/metal tight-fitting drums.
It added that the use of these structures or packages should be installed in places not accessible to rats, stating that, “This could be achieved by installing tight-fitting doors, rodent guards along with blocking the possible entrance to the storage area through windows and any other noticeable cracks in ceilings or walls.”
The institute also called on the government at all levels, non-governmental organizations, agro-allied agencies, the mass media, and well-meaning Nigerians to be proactive in the prevention of the viral infection to prevent loss of lives needlessly.
“NSPRI is hereby calling on state and local governments as well as non-governmental organisations with responsibilities, mandates, and networks in the post-harvest value chain to join her in this awareness campaign for effective sensitisation of the public, not only for proper handling of garri, but also for all ready-to-eat food products like smoked fish, confectionaries, roasted groundnuts, fruits, and vegetables,” Dr Pessu said.
Relevant monitoring agencies for food inspection and sanitation should intensify their efforts across the tiers of government to ensure or enforce compliance, the agency said.
However, the institute said the current disturbing discourse in the Nigerian public sphere is a contribution attributed to the occurrence of Lassa fever mainly to the consumption of water-soaked garri.
NSPRI said it is important to note that garri is not the only possible carrier of the Lassa fever virus but all ready-to-eat food items that are susceptible to contamination by Lassa fever-infested rats and other animals.
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