Poor handling of food at market places has been identified as one of the major sources of food contamination, which can compromise food safety and health.
According to the CEO of Food and Drugs Authority (FDA), Delese Darko, the exposure of produce to unfavourable storage conditions, poor hygienic practices and conditions in our markets and food adulteration/food fraud are major challenges in food safety.
Addressing stakeholders at the 1st Food Safety Conference in Accra on the theme ‘Enhancing Food Security Through Safe Food Practices’, Mrs. Darko indicated that food fraud alone is estimated to cost consumers up to US$40bn globally and the food industry US$10- 15bn per year.
Explaining the rationale for the food safety week, she indicated that: “We want to create an awareness on food safety; it is an issue that affects everybody from the home to farmers, producers to even retailers, food vendors – and the idea is to get the general public to learn about food safety implications on the population of Ghana.
“If anybody seeks to deceive us about food fraud then we are aware, and as a nation we can come together to ensure we are not deceived. And at the end of the day, we can be sure that the food we buy is safe and together we’ll build a healthy population,” she told B&FT in an interview.
The conference is expected to help gather relevant information needed to develop interventions that could be used to promote safe food practices among the Ghanaian populace.
In Ghana, increase in demand for semi-processed foods has led to the emergence of various types of food products on the market. This has resulted in an increased level of deception by people in the food sector for financial gain.
Although most food fraud practices occur unnoticed, the FDA – in line with its mandate to protect public health and safety – has carried out several investigations into activities of food fraud in recent times, some of which are: the adulteration of Palm oil with sudan IV dye; the mixing of powdered pepper with bixa seeds; and colouring corn chaff as tomato powder.
Tina Mensah, Deputy Health Minister, also pointed out that the programme’s theme was significant in that consumers are demanding protection for the whole food supply chain from farm to fork.
“This will only occur if all sectors of the chain work in an integrated way, thereby building consumer confidence in the safety of food products.
“This therefore calls for managing the food chain so that the public has access to safe food, through an effective food safety programme that aims to safeguard the quality and safety of the total food supply – thereby leading to a reduction in the incidence of food-borne diseases and improvements in the quality of life,” she added.
The representative of the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) to Ghana, Abebe Haile Gabriel, also indicated that the organisation is supporting the Ghana Codex Trust Fund Project to enhance the country’s participation.
The project, which started at the end of 2016, will continue until the beginning of 2019 and involves training and capacity building for food safety professionals across many institutions in Ghana – on technical and procedural issues that will enable them to better influence decision-making in Codex.
By Eugene Davis l thebftonline.com l Ghana