Wednesday, 31st May 2023

600m persons fall ill, 420,000 others die globally from toxic foods

By Chukwuma Muanya (Lagos) and Nkechi Onyedika-Ugoeze (Abuja)
08 June 2022   |   4:04 am
Some 600 million people fall ill and 420,000 others die yearly after eating contaminated foods.


•NAFDAC urges healthy eating to check diseases
Some 600 million people fall ill and 420,000 others die yearly after eating contaminated foods.

Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, who made ther disclosure at an event to mark the 2022 World Food Safety Day, yesterday, in Abuja, observed that hunger-starved under-five kids were at higher risk.

He stated that unsafe foods cause one in six deaths from diarrhoea, a major killer, adding that “it is vital that the average Nigerian demands safe and wholesome foods at home, cafeteria, restaurant, street, market and social event.

Ehanire said farmers and food operators should make additional efforts in seeking professional advice relating to application of additives, agro feeds, agrochemicals, good agriculture practices (GAP) and hygiene practices.

The minister insisted that “there is no food security without safety,” adding: “It is only when the food is safe that it will meet the nutritional needs and help adults to live active and healthy lives, aside children growing and developing.”

THIS came as Director General, National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye, urged Nigerians to prioritise consumption of safe and wholesome food for improved immunity.

She stated that Nigerians do not need medicines if they eat rightly.

Adeyeye bared her mind at the fourth World Food Safety Day 2022, with the theme, ‘Safer Food, Better Health,’ where she noted that, “where food is unsafe, our nutritional goals cannot be achieved.”

In a statement issued by the Resident Media Consultant, Sayo Akintola, the NAFDAC DG was quoted as saying, “safe food is an essential component of sustainable development and contributes towards improvement of public health, poverty reduction and increased food security.”

She pointed out that this year’s theme was apt, as the world gradually returns to normal after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Adeyeye said the theme also aligned with the World Health Assembly’s 75 topic, ‘Health for Peace and Peace for Health,’ adding that safer food, indeed, takes the front and centre positions for better health and relative personal and world peace.

“You all know my popular saying about not needing medicine if one eats right. Eating right means making healthy food choices from safe, wholesome and nutritious foods,” she stated.

She stressed that the occasion of World Food Safety Day is an added opportunity for us to create and generate awareness around food safety and situate it as a very significant issue of public health concern, especially in the light of safe, wholesome food being important for boosting immunity and improving the body’s natural defenses in fighting diseases.

“The theme ‘Safer Food, Better Health’ is very relevant to us here in Nigeria as a large proportion of the foods we consume are produced by micro- and small-scale producers; these include our smallholder farmers, street food vendors, the traditional, open food markets.”

She noted that these are important players whose activities fall within the informal sector, and they constitute a significant part of our national food supply.

Adeyeye, however, noted with dismay that their activities are of concern regarding safe food practices or lack of it.

She added that these foods are frequently exposed to less than hygienic and sanitary conditions, resulting in contamination and leading to incidences and outbreaks of foodborne diseases, situations that are steadily becoming significant food safety concerns.

The NAFDAC boss disclosed that unsafe foods are the cause of many diseases and contribute to other poor health conditions, such as impaired growth and development.

“We know that food safety is a shared responsibility, and everyone has a role to play in ensuring we have safer food for better health: from growers to processors, to transporters, sellers, buyers, and those who prepare or serve food. Policy makers, educational institutions and workplaces, as well as consumers are not left out; food safety is the responsibility of all. We must all work together to help achieve safer food for better health.”

She said her ‘Call to Action’ on this occasion of World Food Safety Day goes out to four groups of stakeholders, namely policy makers and food regulators, food businesses, educational institutions and workplaces as well as the consumers.

She urged policy makers and food regulators to design all public procurement of food, such as food aid, school feeding and other publicly owned food outlets, so that consumers can access safe and healthy foods. She added that they should support policy measures and legal frameworks to strengthen the national food safety system and ensure it comply with food safety standards and regulations.
She however, urged them to encourage and engage in multi-sectoral collaboration at the local, national, regional, and global levels.

Adeyeye said food businesses should also engage employees, suppliers, and other stakeholders to grow and develop a food safety culture; and comply with international and national food standards.

Adeyeye said educational institutions and workplaces should promote safe food handling as well as engage with families and involve them in food safety activities.

Adeyeye admonished consumers to practice safe food handling at home and follow the WHO’s Five Keys to Safer Food: keep clean, separate raw and cooked, cook thoroughly, keep food at safe temperatures and use safe water and raw materials.

She pointed out that NAFDAC as a key actor in the Nigerian food safety system has the responsibility to key into global best practices that ensure that food placed on the market for sale is safe, wholesome, nutritious and of good quality.

“We have seized the opportunity of the World Food Safety Day to put together this capacity building event for staff members, and I believe that it will provide an additional layer of awareness and knowledge on food safety as well as ensure a food safety culture that will go beyond the celebration of World Food Safety Day today, while making us true advocates of the consumption of safe foods, leading to improved health outcomes.”