Food safety must be collective responsibility

Last Friday, Ghana joined the rest of the world to observe World Food Safety Day.

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This year's celebration was the sixth observation and sought to raise awareness of  the importance of food safety across the food value chain. In 2018, the United Nations General Assembly set aside June 7 to be marked annually as World Food Safety Day to manage foodborne risks, contributing to food security.

The day seeks to draw attention and inspire action to help prevent, detect and respond to public health threats associated with unsafe food. Ensuring that food stays safe at every stage of the food chain, ranging from production to harvest, processing, storage, distribution, all the way to the dining table gives true meaning to food safety.

The UN estimates about 600 million cases of foodborne illnesses annually, with about 420, 000 people around the world dying every year after eating contaminated food. In Ghana, the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA), in collaboration with all stakeholders along the food value chain, commemorated the 2024 World Food Safety Day on the theme: “Food safety, prepare for the unexpected.”

The theme highlights the importance of being prepared for food-related problems, regardless of their severity. The Daily Graphic cannot but agree with the FDA that food safety and related issues may offer potential health risks when food is consumed under poor hygienic conditions.

The FDA has been at the forefront as the institution mandated to regulate food safety in the country to ensure that food sold, whether raw or cooked, is wholesome for consumption.

The surveillance unit of the FDA has been to all corners of the country to ensure that only wholesome food is sold for consumption. During visits to market places, issues such as adulterations, additives and other harmful practices take place.

However, the Daily Graphic believes that food safety must be the concern of all, and ensuring that we all stay healthy after eating should not be left solely for the FDA. As good citizens, we have the duty to report unpatriotic ones who, motivated by profit, resort to any unorthodox means along the value chain to compromise the safety of the foods meant for consumption by the people.

On the personal level, Ghanaian food consumers must ensure food safety by handling food hygienically and store their food properly by keeping them at the right temperature, store food in covered containers and rotate food stock.

We must learn to choose safe food sources, check expiration dates and avoid expired or spoiled food. Also, we must be aware of food recalls and avoid consuming recalled products.
Importantly, we must make a conscious effort to read the labels on packages and check for ingredients, allergens and nutritional information.

Ghanaians must cultivate the habit of reporting food safety concerns to the FDA or the public health authorities about suspected foodborne illnesses or unsafe food practices. It is public knowledge that sometimes the place food is prepared, how it is prepared and where it is sold is a serious public health hazard yet we all keep quiet.

We see on a daily basis, cooked food or raw food being sold close to filthy open gutters and even public places of convenience, while food items are openly displayed by the roadside, clearly disregarding the health implications of such actions.

For the sake of a healthy nation with a healthy workforce for rapid progression and development of our country, we shouldn’t sit aloof with arms folded expecting only the FDA to protect us from profit-motivated individuals whose sole aim is to make money at the expense of the consumer.

For, it is said, a healthy nation is a wealthy nation. What we eat determines our well-being and the saying 'we are what we eat' corroborates that fact because unsafe food is a threat to human health and economies.

We all must, therefore, ensure that the commemoration of World Food Safety Day serves as a wake-up call for all of us to join hands to ensure that food served on our dining table is safe for consumption.

By adopting these measures, Ghanaians can significantly reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses and ensure a safer food supply.

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