An official of the Ministry of Health says unsafe foods containing harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemical substances caused more than 200 diseases ranging from diarrhea to cancers and food borne diarrhoeal diseases would kill an estimated two million people annually, including many children.
The Ministry of Health has therefore, called on Ministries, Departments and Agencies to as a matter of urgency review and update all policies and protocols related to food safety to conform to emerging and existing trends. The reviews and updates should take care of both national and international requirements as well as their implementation.
Dr Afisah Zacharia, Director of Policy Planning Monitoring and Evaluation of the Ministry of Health made the call at the national launch of the World Health Day in Accra on Tuesday. The 2015 World Health Day, which fell on April 7, focused on Food Safety with the slogan “From Farm to Plate: Make Food Safe”.
The day was to raise awareness about food safety and encourage everyone to show concern about the food people buy and eat and how safe they are. Dr Zacharia explained that there were new emerging threats to food safety due to the increasing use of chemical fertilizers in food production right from the farm, distribution and consumption.
“The use of these chemicals has brought changes to the soil resulting in the emergence of new bacteria and toxins that pose threats to food safety. Chemical contamination could lead to acute poisoning or long term diseases”, she added.
Mr John Odame- Darkwa Deputy Chief Executive in Charge of Food Safety Division noted that there was increasing global concerns in the safety of foods available for consumption and the concerns have heightened when food was intended for both local and international market.
In Ghana, there have been major concerns and gaps with regards to food safety in the areas of food production, handling, packaging processing and transportation. There are other issues with biological, chemical, and physical contaminants in the food chain.
This he said was important for everyone to have access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet dietary needs but unfortunately unavailability of adequate food and poverty has caused people to be concern only with satisfying hunger at the expense of safety.
“As Ghana seeks to improve her competiveness on the global markets, there is the need to review how agri-business is conducted in the food chain to quality ad risk analysis in the country”.
He explained that Ghana has shown commitment to address these concerns hence, the draft of the national food policy to allow effective coordination and evaluation through the value chain.
The draft national food safety policy would protect consumers and assurance of safe food for export and when implemented will foster close collaboration between stakeholders in agriculture, trade, human health, animal health, tourism and standardization among others to strengthen, prevent and control food and water borne diseases.
It will also promote the involvement of stakeholders and build network that can respond efficiently to food safety emergencies. He said unsafe foods containing harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemical substances caused more than 200 diseases ranging from diarrhea to cancers and food borne diarrhoeal diseases would kill an estimated two million people annually, including many children.
Mr Odame-Darkwah called on policy makers to make safe food a top priority and integrate food safety into broader food policy and into nutrition and food security policies and programmes. He called for the urgent need to adequately coordinate food safety systems adding, “if we really want to be seen progressing”.