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Veterinary expert Michaela Wekam stresses importance of Food Safety in Ghana

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By Gloria Amoh

Michaela Wekam, a Risk Communicator and Veterinary Technologist from the Veterinary Services, emphasized the significance of food safety in Ghana.

In an interview on GTV breakfast show, she explained that the World Food Safety Celebration began in 2019, when the United Nations designated a day to highlight the importance of food safety, recognizing it as essential for survival, alongside air and water.

Since 2019, World Food Safety Day has been observed on June 7. However, in Ghana, the celebration extends throughout the month. “We decided to celebrate for a month because there are so many facets to the food industry,” Michaela stated. “There are numerous key players and stakeholders, and one day isn’t enough to raise awareness and ensure that policies address the myriad issues within our food value chain.”

Wekam stressed that food safety is everyone’s responsibility. “You have a role to play, I do as a veterinarian, and many other key players as well,” she said.

She noted that the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA), Ghana Standards Authority (GSA), Veterinary Services, and the Plant Protection and Regulatory Services Directorate (PPRSD) are all involved because food encompasses both plant-based and animal-based products, spanning from farm to fork. Transporters, butchers, vendors, academia, and research institutions all play crucial roles, providing scientific backing and evidence for industry policies.

Despite the collaborative effort, Wekam pointed out overlapping mandates within Ghana’s current laws, such as the Public Health Act and the Animal Health Bill, which is currently in Parliament. The Animal Health Bill focuses on disease surveillance in the animal health sector, particularly regarding food of animal origin.

Wekam highlighted efforts within the animal health sector to convince farmers to avoid using antibiotics as growth promoters and to observe withdrawal periods before slaughtering or selling animals. She explained that failure to observe these periods can result in drug residues in the meat, posing health risks to consumers. “Most drugs used on animals are also used on humans, leading to potential health issues when consumed unknowingly,” she noted.

The Veterinary Services are responsible for ensuring the safety of imported and exported animal and animal food products through laboratory analysis and disease outbreak research. Michaela expressed concern about some importers and exporters bypassing necessary certifications and analysis. “We ensure that agents perform the required certification and analysis before consignment clearance,” she said.

Agencies such as customs, veterinary services, the FDA, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) work together to enforce regulations and mandates, ensuring the safety of imports and exports. “Depending on what you’re bringing into the country, you should know the stakeholders, regulations, and mandates to meet to ensure safety for the general public,” Michaela concluded.

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