How safe is the food you eat? Do you know that food is only as good as it is safe? Experts say this is because food can be the best medicine or the worst poison. This aptly explains concerns by the Federal Ministries of Health and Agriculture for embarking on public awareness on food safety.
Statistics from the World Health Organisation, WHO, show that about 600 million people accounting for one in 10 globally fall ill after eating contaminated food. To tackle the problem in Nigeria, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, who pledged government’s readiness to take issues of food safety seriously, said there is need to begin to change the mindset of Nigerians regarding simple preparation of food.
He said Nigerians are unknowingly dying as a result of simple things like use of grinding machines for tomatoes, onions, pepper that could expose them to life threatening diseases.
“The grinding machines are made of raw steel and as it grinds, there is friction, bits of metal wear into the tomatoes or beans you eat and metal poisoning is quite deadly.”
Regretting that less attention was paid in the past he urged the use of stainless steel items for processing such food items.
He explained that besides metal poisoning, rust from the materials made of iron goes into the food. He said the government would produce the machines on a large scale possibly at subsidised rates.
“Nigerians are poisoning themselves using substandard machinery unknown. These problems are serious challenges that we must deal with especially as our population is approaching 200 million in just a few years.
“About 37 percent of our children are malnourished and about 25 percent are stunted, what’s the problem? Are we taking enough protein and vitamins? That’s something to worry about,” he lamented.
Stating that agriculture had been abandoned to the helpless and nameless, poor peasants in the village, he said this has greatly affected the quality of food. “Some of our imports, frozen chicken for instance, are injected with chemicals that are dangerous to health. Tomato paste reddened with some chemicals, apples ripened in chemicals especially ethanol, we buy and we eat especially if they are imported, they must be of the best quality. We are slowly poisoning ourselves. In local rice mills, women are parboiling rice with drums made of iron and there is a high degree of rust getting into the rice.
Tuesday last week, the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, said the Federal Government, along with stakeholders has commenced the implementation of the Food Safety Policy.
He also revealed that the government will soon produce a draft of National Food Safety & Quality (NFSQ) Bill and working paper on food safety.
Adewole observed that Nigeria still has lot of ground to cover before getting to the point where it can fully benefit from the draft bill and the institutional reforms.
Further, he pledged that the Federal Ministry of Health would continue to support the National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC), as government’s specialised agency with the mandate to protect Nigerians from the consumption of unwholesome foods, to effectively carry out its mandate in terms of food safety governance.
Also speaking, the Acting Director General of NAFDAC, Mrs. Yetunde Oni said as part of efforts to achieve food safety, the Agency has instituted a Directorate on Food regulation and safety to take charge of foods right from the start which is the farm to the finished products.
She appealed to Nigerians into food production to always carry NAFDAC along right from start with a view to making process of registration amongst others less cumbersome for them.
“We will not accept any process. There are minimum requirements and when they are not there you begin to have problems. But when you carry us along, we advise you on how to set up your business so that registration process becomes easy for you,” she explained.