World food Safety day: how safe is your food?

By Ahedor Jessica

Foodborne diseases resulting from adulteration, contamination, mishandling and poor conditions under which food is prepared and served remains a public health threat in many countries and Ghana is no exception. Especially in an era where young Ghanaians aged between 15-45 years depend on street foods with males and single women dominating fast food sales points in urban Ghana.

Elizabeth Twum, a 23 year old who usually patronizes ‘Abena’ a popular fast food joints in Abelemkpe, Accra affirms, her work schedule as a sales person does not permit her to have time to prepare homemade meal. “I stay alone and I am a shop attendant I hardly get time to cook before and after work. Unfortunately, I stay far from where I work so if I get anything to quench my hunger I am good to go for the day; she stated.

Just like Elizabeth, many of Ghana’s working class is in this dilemma of having to work hard but eating anything that ‘quench hunger’ without recourse to health implications or safety. It is estimated that every one out of 40 persons in Ghana suffers foodborne illness. Also in a recent review, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), has found that contamination and adulteration levels of food were very high in street food outlets in Ghana, and poor hygiene practices were often adopted, increasing the risk of developing foodborne diseases among the population.

As such, scientists are cautioning street food lovers to be weary of the dangers in eating at eateries outside home. As the over 250 foodborne diseases are of growing public health concern worldwide. Food scientist, Edward Essuman, Department of Dietetics, University of Allied Health Sciences Ho, says, over half of foodborne illnesses can be traced directly back to food handlers and improper hygiene and a few personal hygiene rules on the part of food handlers within the food value chain and a care look at this can help minimize food safety problems.  “The bigger picture of food safety is that it is incumbent on everyone, right from the production to the consumer, everyone has a role to play to ensure food safety”.

Available literature by Benjamin Osei Tutu et al at the Department of Food Safety Management, Food and Drugs Authority reveals that the Grater Accra Regional Hospital sees a seasonal peak of typhoid fever, dysentery, cholera and viral hepatitis at the beginning of every rainy season in Ghana. Warning that, the advent of chemical fertilizer application on farm produce to improved yields, pest control, and food additives to enhance food products and its preservations are causing more harm than good to human health.

Checks in recent review articles in Ghana have it that, the most common clinical presentation of foodborne disease takes the form of gastrointestinal symptoms where other systems of the body can also be affected and represents a considerable burden of disability as well as mortality. Thus experts are worried the non- availability of a sentinel site or surveillance system for foodborne diseases is making efforts to curb the trend challenging.

Although the Ghana Health Service together with its partners have attempted strengthening  community-based surveillance to facilitate early detection and rapid reporting of health events of all origins, augmenting efforts of government by individuals, private sector and member states, within the sub-region will help improve the situation. Meanwhile, recognizing the global burden of foodborne diseases, which affect individuals of all ages, in particular children under-5 and persons living in low-income countries United Nations General Assembly in 2018 proclaimed that every 7 June be marked World Food Safety Day. With a further adoption by the World Health Assembly in 2020 to strengthen efforts on food safety to reduce the burden of foodborne disease in collaboration with Member States and other relevant organizations.

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