When it comes to ensuring proper food hygiene, the markets from where foodstuffs and items are bought for the preparation of meals must not be ignored. In fact, it must be the first place to be considered.
Unfortunately, however, most of our markets are laden with filth, a situation that requires urgent attention to reverse the trend.
In our markets, it is very common to find some traders sitting right next to heaps of refuse to sell their food items, with most buyers oblivious of the inherent danger as they patronise the items.
Owing to the insanitary conditions in many of our markets, flies hover over edibles such as smoked and fresh fish and meat, bread, buff loaf, cooked food, among other items,
Painfully, food items such as bread and animal carcasses are transported to the markets in the same dirty and rickety vehicles used to transport humans, instead of clean and properly designated vans to ensure the food or meat are not contaminated in any way before sale.
The least said about the treatment given to foodstuffs and vegetables, the better, as they are generally treated with scorn, as if they are not going to be ingested by humans. They are simply dumped onto the ground when they arrive from the farm gates and trodden upon when they are being stacked for sale.
Sadly, in the midst of the filth and improper handling of food items on sale to the public, city authorities go round to collect taxes and other levies from the market women and traders, while little is done to ensure clean surroundings.
Lately, we see Accra city authorities visit our markets to ensure a clean working environment, but we believe strongly that this must be deepened if we are to see improvement in our markets.
It is in the light of this troubling spectacle in most of our markets that the Daily Graphic sees the call by the Chief of Kenten and Dabehene of the Techiman Traditional Area, Nana Boasiako Antwi, to the vegetable sellers at the Techiman Market to stop selling from the bare floor, during a Zoomlion/Graphic clean-up at the market recently, as being timely and in the right direction.
Coming face to face with cabbage sellers in one of the biggest food markets in the West African sub-region plying their trade from the dirty floor, Nana Antwi did the honourable thing by advising them against displaying their goods on the bare floor to avoid selling contaminated produce to their customers.
The Daily Graphic is especially excited that the Chief of Kenten did not only express his disappointment with the poor attitude to sanitation by the cabbage and carrot sellers in the market but also summoned them to appear before the traditional council.
He also proffered a solution by advising the traders to erect platforms for the display of their goods, instead of displaying them on the bare floor, where such goods came into contact with filth, including faecal matter.
We have simply painted this picture in our markets with the view that all efforts will be garnered to ensure that our markets are safe and secure.
We believe that the warning by the Chief of Kenten, that on subsequent visits he would seize vegetables displayed on the bare floor, and that besides clean-up campaigns and education, the traditional authority would use its Apuor Festival to name and shame people who traded in filth to compel them to change their negative attitudes towards sanitation, must also be taken more seriously.
We believe that this advice is equally good for all traders in our markets across the country.
At the same time, we wish to urge our traditional leaders to take a cue from Nana Antwi by bringing their authority to bear in such instances when the institutions that are tasked with ensuring cleanliness fail in their duty.
Most importantly, we call for collaboration between our institutions and the traditional authorities to bring some sanity to our public space and avoid preventable diseases such as cholera, which is associated with contaminated water and filth.
The Daily Graphic also suggests that market queens and leaders liaise with both city and traditional authorities if traders are recalcitrant to ensure order and cleanliness at all times.
Above all, we the buyers must shun food displayed on the floor or not sold in hygienic conditions, as well as report such attitudes to the health division of our assembliess which must also crack the whip to ensure the safety of the citizenry.