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FG unveils guidelines for safe food practices during COVID-19 pandemic

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As part of efforts to ensure public safety, the Federal Government has approved a new guideline for food businesses, which spells out safe food practices during the pandemic.

The guideline stipulates the need for the food business operators, retail stores and open markets to provide adequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs); strengthen its personal hygiene procedures; make available NAFDAC registered hand sanitizer for consumers on their way in and out of the food premises; introduce and enforce physical distancing measures in the food establishments amongst others.

Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, who gave the approval to the document noted that to ensure food hygiene and prevent COVID-19 in food businesses, all well-established food businesses are expected to have some form of Food Safety Management Systems (FSMS) in place, and Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) to manage food safety hazards and risks. 

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According to him, the food manufacturers and retail markets are to liaise with relevant food regulatory agencies such as National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON), and Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Service (NAQS) for advice to ensure that food produced, marketed and sold are safe and wholesome for consumption. Ehanire explained that the purpose of the advisory is to bring up possible measures to guide what food establishments and food retail markets have to put in place to ensure the integrity of the food supply chain across the country.

Ehanire who agreed with the World Health Organization (WHO) that it is highly unlikely that people can contract COVID-19 from food and food packaging, however, said that because SARS COV-2 virus is transmitted through respiratory droplets that are too heavy to remain in air, they may, however, land on openly displayed foods at open markets to go on to affect persons. The minister advised that consumers are required to wash fruits and vegetables well and ensure good personal and respiratory hygiene around open food items.

The Advisory for Food Businesses for Safe Food Practices during Covid-19 Pandemic also directs safe transport of food and food business environment. More so, in the food business environment, the new advisory stated that staff or food handlers who are unwell should, under no condition be at a food business premises.

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