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Nigeria, Norway keep safety of sea food on front burner

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Norwegian food expert, putting Nigerian chefs through on the best way to prepare fish at a recent seminar


According to World Health Organisation (WHO), unsafe food poses global health threats, endangering everyone including infants, young children, pregnant women, the elderly while those with an underlying illness are particularly vulnerable. The organization came up with the data of 200 million children contracting diarrhea diseases every year with 96,000 not being able to survive it.

WHO therefore holds that access to sufficient amounts of safe and nutritious food is key to sustaining life and promoting good health while unsafe food containing harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemical substances could cause more than 200 different diseases, ranging from diarrhea to cancers.

WHO churned out the figure of an estimated 600 million around the world, falling ill after eating contaminated food each year, culminating into 420,000 deaths and the loss of 33 million healthy lives.

The dichotomy between using the same insecticides on the farm to keep off pests from perching on plants and on the other hand on food items for sale with the aim of preserving the latter, which is clearly preposterous, remains a serious issue with traders.The raging battle between traders and relevant agencies trying to clamp down on those indulging in this insidious habit had been persistent.

According to Director of Fisheries and Aquaculture, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Ime Umoh at a recent seminar organized by the Norwegian Food Council on food safety, “Spraying chemicals like sniper which is the substance banned by the European Union (EU) and United States of America (USA) on food and fish is highly dangerous to health and thus lead to various health problems”.

Agency such as Fisheries and Aquaculture of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, therefore unambiguously, take delight in stakeholders that would help to create awareness of the danger of using dangerous chemicals on food items in the name of their preservation.

It was in this light that the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture appreciated the efforts of Norwegian Food Council that recently organized a seminar for importers of stockfish, stockfish heads, dried fish, markerel and herring among others, pitching its tent with the submission advanced by WHO that food safety, nutrition and food security are closely linked.

According to Director, Central and West Africa, Norwegian Seafood Council, Trond Kostveit, the seminar was organized as part of the Norwegian Seafood Council’s Corporate Social Responsibility to Nigeria, a country that is by far the largest market for its products in terms of volumes, adding that the seminar for importers in Nigeria was not only aimed at creating awareness and impacting knowledge on various ways to prevent insects and other unwanted pests on perching on sea food products but also to teach chefs invited from some major hotels and restaurants in Nigeria on the correct way of handling of seafood.

The free seminar which was also organized on the heels of illegal use of dangerous chemicals on broken pieces of dried fish in some Nigerian markets was held in collaboration with the government that was represented by its relevant agencies including the department of Fisheries and Aquaculture, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, represented by Dr. Ime Umoh, who stood in for the Honorable Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Alhaji Sabo Nanono; Nigeria Customs represented by Musa Nagogo of Nigeria Customs, Zone A, Lagos and National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), represented by Assistant Director, NAFDAC, Dr. Tunde Sigbeku.

The outcome of the seminar which received the nod of the various government representatives could be perceived as a challenge to every importer of food into the country on the need to also liaise with their foreign partners to organize similar seminars on food security in line with the dictate of WHO

Umoh at the seminar, submitted that the Federal Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture was committed to eliminating wholesome practices in the sector through development of guidelines of standards of farms that can export, train farm inspectors, develop residue monitoring plan as well as plan to accredit the National Fishery Laboratory in Lagos.

He added that the Ministry would ensure that the various Export processing facilities in the country have in place an HACCP (hazard analysis and critical control plan) and anti contaminants plan before they are certified for export.Umoh disclosed that in addition to the awareness and sensitization the Norwegian Seafood Council was impacting on the Nigeria importers of stock fish, frozen salthe, mackerel and herring, ministry of Agriculture and Rural development had in plan to build the capacity and sensitize the indigenous smoked fish processors and fish farmers on the proper and safest methods to use their storage facilities so as to prevent infestation by pests like weevils, flies, cockroaches, rats and dangerous use of chemicals.

He noted that the Ministry was fully aware of the focus on illegal usage of dangerous chemicals on broken pieces of dried fish in some markets in past months as he solicited for further partnership and collaboration with the Norwegian Seafood Council in the areas of manpower development and training.

Sigbeku assured that NAFDAC was committed to safety of Nigerian’s food for consumption and that the Agency would not renege from its goal, neither was it ready to compromise its stand.He disclosed that NAFDAC has embarked on the pursuit that ensures that pesticides were only made available to rightful users and not getting into wrong hands.

“The Agency has put policies in place to ensure that insecticides are in the hands of rightful users who are the farmers that are to use them judiciously” he said.He remarked that the Agency has banned the usage of some chemicals which could not longer be found in the market with proper follow up that they are not brought back into the market.

Nagogo in his input said that the Customs does not delight in delaying food items at the Port to the point of contamination as long as the importers have every relevant papers, adding that problems would always arise whenever importers try to cut corners.
He assured of the co-operation of the Customs with every faithful importer whose good items would be promptly cleared as long as they keep to the demand of the Customs.

Fisheries Consultant, Mrs. Abiodun Cheke said that the seminar was actually organized to ensure food safety which included training free of cost, chefs from notable hotels and restaurants on the best way to prepare sea foods as part of the Council’s corporate social responsibility.She added that importers would not have any problem in the course of importation as long as they have relevant papers as the Council in collaboration with the government of Nigeria would not compromise on the issue of not having correct papers, assuring importers that their goods would not be unduly delayed at the Port as long as they keep to the rules as she would always be on ground to intercede on genuine cases of any importer.

“On my own part, I have been able to stop illegal importation of fishes from Norway through Cotonou to Nigeria to avoid importation of contaminated fishes into the country.“I make sure that those that import fishes into the country have fish licence and all the necessary papers they are supposed to have and pass through the right channel by paying correct custom duty.“I am happy that officials over there in Norway do proper monitoring of the kind of fishes exported to Nigeria and always ready to clamp down on any producer that refuses to meet up with EU requirement” she said.


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