Food safety should be public health priority
This was when the EU provided €10 million support for Ghana's food security in 2022

Food safety should be public health priority

Our lives are largely dependent on what we eat and drink.

What it means is that the food we eat can either nourish us or jeopardise our health.

That is why access to sufficient amounts of safe and nutritious food is key to sustaining life and promoting good health.

It is for this reason that the World Health Organisation (WHO) explicitly argues that food safety, nutrition and food security are inextricably linked.

The WHO further indicates that an estimated 600 million – almost one in 10 people in the world – fall ill after eating contaminated food and 420, 000 die every year.

Similarly, the WHO estimates that US$110 billion is lost each year in productivity and medical expenses resulting from unsafe food in low and middle-income countries.

Food safety is used as a term to describe the handling, preparation and storage of food in ways that prevent food-borne illness or contamination.

Food-borne diseases impede socioeconomic development by straining healthcare systems and harming national economies, tourism and trade.

It is estimated that unsafe food, containing harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemical substances causes more than 200 diseases, ranging from diarrhoea to cancers.

Many people have had to deal with lifetime disabilities because of the consumption of unsafe foods.

Sadly, many have paid the ultimate prize—death.

Chemical contamination, for instance, can lead to acute poisoning or chronic diseases such as cancer which may eventually lead to death.

It is against this background that the paper is strongly calling on authorities with the mandate to ensure that foods sold on the streets are safe for consumption, to act and act now.

This is because many Ghanaians eat foods that are sold on the streets and any careless handling of such food products could spell doom for the country.

The paper last Friday reported a food poisoning incident at Oyibi in the Greater Accra Region where five people reportedly died after eating “waakye” (a meal made from rice and beans) they had bought from a food joint at Oyibi Bush Canteen Junction.

More than 50 people who also bought different meals from the same food vendor, popularly called “Yellow Sisi”, a well-known eatery at the said location, including the vendor herself and her family members, have all been hospitalised.

One of the dead victims is said to be an expectant mother.

Many of the victims are said to have been rushed to the Valley View Hospital, Oyibi Hospital, Dodowa Hospital and other facilities when they complained of severe stomach ache after they had eaten the food that Friday.

How to prevent the occurrence of a similar incident is not beyond us, provided all stakeholders play their roles as expected.

It is sad that precious lives have been lost through the food the victims bought and ate.

Even though we cannot bring the dead back to life, we can prevent future occurrence of similar incidents by ensuring that relevant state institutions, such as the Ghana Health Service (GHS), Food and Drugs Authority (FDA), the various Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs), the Ghana Police Service, School of Hygiene, Ghana Education Service, Information Services Department, and the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE) work individually and jointly to promote food safety in the country.

Food vendors need to be sensitised and educated on how to properly handle, prepare and store food in order not to put the lives of consumers in danger through the meals they serve.

More importantly, the Public Health Division of the GHS and the FDA should be proactive in monitoring food vendors, particularly on the types of ingredients they use and how they are stored.

The Daily Graphic is urging state institutions mandated with the responsibility to protect the public from unwholesome foods to be proactive and not wait for unfortunate events to take us by surprise before they act.

The paper is further calling on the government to make food safety a public health priority by developing a policy framework to outline who is qualified to sell food on the streets.

We also urge food handlers and consumers to understand how to safely handle food and practise the WHO’s five keys to safer food at home when selling at restaurants or at the market.

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