NEWS COMMENTARY HIGHLIGHTS THE NEED FOR NUTRITIONAL AND SAFE FOOD CONSUMPTION, AS WORLD FOOD SAFETY DAY IS MARKED.
Food is indispensable. In fact, food is life, just as water is. Anyone who does not eat will die. That is how important food is. Even more important is a nutritious food. A lot of people eat without realizing that the nutritional value of food is as important as what is being eaten. This is why in a place like the US, there is a debate about organic food versus junk food. Organic food is usually more expensive and quite difficult for low-income homes to afford, but junk food, otherwise known as fast food, is mostly very cheap, but may not be the best take.
In fact, doctors say Junk food is unhealthy food, it is high in calories, from sugar or fat, with little dietary fiber, protein, vitamins, minerals, or other important forms of nutritional value. They link junk food to non-communicable diseases such as cancer and diabetes. Sadly, more than 70 percent of deaths in Africa are caused by non-communicable diseases. This is why it is important for everyone to eat not only nutritious food but also ensure that food consumed is safe.
World Food Safety Day, observed every June 7, is the initiative of the World Health Organization, WHO and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, FAO to provide the opportunity to strengthen efforts at ensuring that the food we eat is safe. The day is also used to mainstream food safety in the public agenda, in a bid to reduce the burden of foodborne diseases globally.
Research shows that unsafe food containing harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemical substances causes more than 200 diseases. This is why we as a country must be worried about the proliferation of food vending points all over. The question to ask is how safe are these kinds of open-air foods being sold, who is checking whether they are complying with standards on food safety and hygiene. From the early morning delicacies of the traditional rice meal, popularly known as waakye, with its accompaniments through to the evening tilapia and banku joints, not to mention the fried spicy plantains, popularly known as kelewele, fried pork chops and fried yams and the hot pepper spice to go with it. Interestingly most of these foods are also highly patronized, as scores of people are seen, especially at night queued up to have an evening meal served. The question remains, who is checking the nutritional content of all these roadside food vendors?
Again, besides, the burden of huge medical bills after eating contaminated food or food-borne diseases, its effect on productivity cannot be understated. Recent estimates indicate that the impact of unsafe food cost low- and middle-income economies around 95 billion dollars in lost productivity each year. Lost productivity means a lost in contribution to the overall growth of the economy. The point cannot be made enough that Public Health Officials need to find more stringent ways of streamlining the proliferation of food vending in Ghana. One area that needs critical attention so far as safe food is concerned is internet food orders. Covid-19 no doubt has opened up for online food vending, taking over traditional forms of selling food.
Also, there seems to be an increase in the sector because, selling food could be lucrative, besides everyone likes food, and human beings cannot live without filling their stomachs. As World Food Safety Day is marked, it is critical to consider good hygiene practices in the food and agricultural sectors. Thus it is believed, will help to reduce the emergence and spread of foodborne diseases or for that matter food poisoning, of which symptoms include; cramping, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.
Again, as we observe World Food Day, it is time to check where and how the waakye seller prepares the food before it is brought to the roadside for clients. Also, it is important to find out the conditions under which, that neighborhood restaurant makes its quick meals and the kind of hygienic conditions under which the Fried Pork and Yam seller works. Above all, people must be wary about food bought in the streets at traffic stops, because it may be difficult to confirm whether the cold beverages, such as Sobolo, Asana or Burkina are sold under the required temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit and below, before consumption. Besides, cold food held without refrigeration is safe for only up to 6 hours, from when it was taken out of the refrigerator. It is worthy of note that an estimated 420 thousand people around the world die every year after eating contaminated food and children under 5 years carry 40% of the foodborne disease burden, with 125 deaths every year. So, whether you grow, process, transport, store, distribute, sell, prepare, serve or consume food, you have a role to play in ensuring that food is safe!
By Rebecca Ekpe, A Journalist.