Editorial: Mitigating food-borne diseases

The country’s food security balance sheet, according to data from the Chamber of Agribusiness Ghana (CAG), has hit a negative two percent.

News that the Environmental Health Management and Sanitation Units (EHS) of the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development reports over 626,000 cases of food-poisoning each year doesn’t make pleasant reading.

Particularly when it results in approximately 298,100 hospitalisations annually, and over 90,000 deaths. Government incurs losses exceeding US$70million annually in efforts to mitigate the food-borne disease burden.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) reports that Africa as a whole face about 135 million cases of contaminated food annually, resulting in over 140,000 deaths. This issue particularly affects children and the poor.

Globally, one in ten people fall ill from contaminated food each year – with over 200 diseases caused by such contamination.

In view of the above, checking labels, health certificates of facilities, and manufacturing and expiration dates of products becomes imperative.

These concerns were highlighted at the Northern Regional launch of World Food Safety Day, held in Tamale with the theme ‘Food Safety: Prepare for the Unexpected’.

Consequently, as a result of the startling statistics, the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) – facilitator of the event – emphasised the public’s need to avoid uncertified and unapproved food products for human safety.

Access to safe and nutritious food is crucial for good health, longevity and prosperity. Therefore, paying close attention to product labels, expiration dates and FDA seals to ensure authenticity is of utmost importance.

Additionally, traders and food operators must of necessity source their products from credible sources to avoid creating health crises in the country.

Meanwhile, the FDA should continue rigorous monitoring to remove unapproved products from the market and punish violators to serve as a deterrent.

World Food Safety Day is celebrated all over the world by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and World Health Organisation (WHO) on June 7 to draw attention to food safety incidents.

Its main goal is to draw attention and inspire actions to help prevent, detect and manage foodborne risks, thus contributing to food safety, human health, economic prosperity, agriculture, access to markets, tourism and sustainable development.

Lest we forget, over 200 diseases are caused by eating contaminated food while 40 percent of the foodborne disease burden is carried by children under 5.

While being ready to manage food safety incidents requires dedicated efforts from policymakers, food safety authorities, farmers and food business operators, consumers can and should also play an active role.

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