Heath Ministry, FAO, SON, others seek urgent action on food safety

Stakeholders in the health sector during this year’s World Food Safety Day, called for urgent steps in addressing issues around food safety which they said would affect the country’s economy, cause premature death and hunger.

The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health, Engr Adebiyi Afolabi, while addressing journalists at the occasion, said this event is aimed to draw attention to the food standards and inspire action to help prevent, detect and also manage food borne risk contributing to food security, human health, economic prosperity, agricultural production, market access, tourism and sustainable development.

He said it is also an opportunity to strengthen efforts to ensure that the food we eat is safe and has standard, mainstream food safety in the public agenda.

The Permanent Secretary who was represented by the Director Pharmaceutical Services, Food and Drugs at the Ministry, Pharm Joseph Ologun said the theme for this year’s celebration ‘Food Standards Save Lives’ brings the need for Nigeria to do whatever it takes to improve food safety practices and standards in a way that ensure reduction or elimination of food borne diseases and illnesses in the country.

“As we know, food standards are a way of ensuring food safety and quality by providing guidance on hygienic food handling for farmers and processors. Standards also specify how the food should be measured, packaged and transported.

“Food safety is the absence of hazards in food that will harm the health of consumers, so food safety has a critical role in ensuring that food stays safe at every stage of the food chain, from production to harvest to processing, storage all the way to preparation and consumption.

“World Food Safety is a unique opportunity to raise awareness about the dangers of unsafe food with government, producers, handlers having a role to play and as has been informed, it is the business of everybody”, he stated.

Also, the Director General of Standard Organization of Nigeria (SON), Mallam Farouk Salim, said this year’s theme resonates with stakeholders’ collective missions and underscores the critical importance of upholding and promoting rigorous food safety standards.

The DG, who was represented by Yunusa Mohammed said in a world where food travels far and wide, across the border and culture, the task of ensuring the safety and quality of food is very paramount.

He said this occasion also serves as a reminder of the critical role that food safety plays in safeguarding the health, promoting economic growth and ensuring the wellbeing of the nation.

“Food standards provide minimum requirements for protection consumers from food borne illness, contamination and fraudulent practices by adhering to the quality and safety requirements as prescribed in the Nigeria regulation standards for food, we will minimize risk and foster public confidence in the safety and quality of food purchase and consumption nationwide”, he added.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Country Representative for Nigeria and ECOWAS, Fred Kafeero said the World Food Safety Day was established in 2018 by the United Nations General Assembly to support initiatives around the world in healthcare of affected individuals by these non-communicable diseases.

Kafeero who was represented by the Country Team Leader for FAO’s Emergency Centre for Transboundary Animal Diseases (ECTAD), Otto muhinda, said the celebrations aims to draw attention and inspire action to help prevent, detect and manage food borne risk and contributing to food security, human health, economic prosperity, agricultural production, market access, tourism and sustainable development.

“This year’s theme explained that standards not only provide guidance to farmers and processors on the hygienic handling of food, but also define the maximum level of additives and contaminants that can be consumed”, he added.