Protect public from food-borne diseases

Food has become a subject for many studies or research projects because in spite of its importance to the sustenance or survival of the human body, it can as well be a source of diseases that can threaten life.

Food contains nutrients that provide energy for activity, growth and all functions of the body such as breathing, repair of the body and keeping the immune system healthy.

Food thus comes in the form of solid or liquid, including potable water.

Fruits and vegetables, as food, can be eaten in their raw form but all other food items are processed or prepared by various methods till they are ready to be eaten.

Various studies have pointed out issues of food safety problems in the course of processing food items for consumption and new ones continue to do so.

For instance, the Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research (ISSER) of the University of Ghana in collaboration with the Centre for Development Research (ZEF), University of Bonn, Germany, has commissioned a two-year research project dubbed ‘Partnerships for healthy diets and nutrition in urban African Food systems – evidence and strategies (NOURICITY)’ being conducted in Ghana, Uganda and South Africa.

The project is aimed at understanding food consumption choices of urban populations and how these choices impact on the health of individuals and households.

Even before any serious work on the study would be done, some of its stakeholders have started cautioning the public against the dangers associated with food processing.

For example, a caution was issued in Accra yesterday at a stakeholder validation workshop on the study by the Accra Metropolitan Director of Public Health, Florence Kuukyi, to the effect that consumers should not ask sellers of food items to begin the processing of these items at the markets.

She explains that the practice often exposes foodstuffs to harmful bacteria and micro-organisms which pose danger to people’s health.

The public health professional explains further that the grater, knives and cloths tied to the fingers of market women to process these food items are in themselves a whole ecosystem of micro-organisms that can be passed on to consumers, who would subsequently suffer related diseases.

What the studies and the caution from the AMA official are concerned with is food safety.

Food safety is a very broad subject as it involves the proper food handling of food during preparation, processing, storage, and distribution.

However, the concern of this piece is the particular safety of the food that is consumed at home and at public places, especially wayside food joints.

It should be the concern of consumers to ascertain the integrity of the food they intend to eat but this is not easy to do.

Therefore, the various agencies and authorities charged with the responsibility of ensuring that the public are served with good food must be up and doing.

The Ghanaian Times knows, for instance, that the officials of the Public Health Directorates of the district assemblies conduct inspection of food joints and even demand reports on the health of the people who prepare the food.

However, such occasional checks are not enough.

How are the assemblies going to be sure that the food sellers are serving the public with good and nutritious food with such occasional checks?

It is also not in doubt that there are bye-laws to ensure food safety among the public but the question is, are they applied as expected?

The absence of food safety means people would suffer food-borne diseases so all the relevant agencies should collaborate to ensure that Ghanaians consume safe food to avoid suffering food-borne diseases.

That way, the country’s health burden would reduce and the people would be healthy enough to contribute to national development.

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