The federal government has said consumption of unsafe or contaminated food was causing the country and other low income economies estimated $95 billion in productivity decline.
The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire who spoke at this year’s World Food Safety Day in Abuja, yesterday, said the public health burden due to food borne diseases was comparable to malaria and HIV-AIDS.
“Unsafe food hinders development especially on low and middle Income economies which lose around $95 billion in productivity associated with illness, disability and premature death suffered by workers,” he said.
Speaking on the diseases resulting from in-take of contaminated food, Ehanire said over 200 diseases were caused by unsafe food consumption.
According to the minister, the magnitude of the public health burden due to food borne diseases was comparable to malaria and HIV-AIDS, adding that under five-year children were higher at risk of malnutrition and mortality due to unsafe food consumption.
He also said the children share about 40 per cent of the food borne disease burden.
“Unsafe food causes one in every six deaths from diarrhea, a major killer of children of the age group,” he said.
He said the World Food Safety Day provided an opportunity to raise awareness about the dangers of unsafe food, government, producers, handlers and consumers having a role to play in making food safe.
On her part, the Director General, National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, (NAFDAC), Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye, urged Nigerians to always ensure that only safe, and wholesome food were consumed to boost immunity and improve the body’s natural defenses in fighting diseases.
She said Nigerians do not need medicines if they eat right, stressing that eating right means making healthy food choices from safe, wholesome, and nutritious foods.
Adeyeye said this during NAFDAC’s celebration of the fourth World Food Safety Day 2022 with the theme: “Safer Food, Better Health,” where she opined that where food is unsafe, “our nutritional goals cannot be achieved.”
In a statement signed by the Resident Media Consultant to NAFDAC, Sayo Akintola, Adeyeye was quoted as saying that safe food was an essential component of sustainable development and contributes towards improvement of public health, poverty reduction, and increased food security.
She noted that the theme for this year was very apt, as the world gradually returns to normal with the COVID-19 pandemic having lost its firm grip on the world.
“You all know my popular saying about not needing medicine if one eats right. Eating right means making healthy food choices from safe, wholesome, and nutritious foods,” she added.
She stressed that the occasion of World Food Safety Day was an opportunity to create and generate awareness around food safety and situate it as a very significant issue of public health concern, especially in the light of safe, wholesome food being important for boosting immunity and improving the body’s natural defenses in fighting diseases.
“The theme Safer Food, Better Health is very relevant to us here in Nigeria as a large proportion of the foods we consume are produced by micro- and small-scale producers; these include our smallholder farmers, street food vendors, the traditional, open food markets,” she added.
The NAFDAC boss however, noted with dismay that their activities were of concern regarding safe food practices or lack of it.
She added that the foods are frequently exposed to less than hygienic and sanitary conditions, resulting in contamination and leading to incidences and outbreaks of foodborne diseases, situations that are steadily becoming significant food safety concerns.
The NAFDAC boss disclosed that unsafe foods are the cause of many diseases and contribute to other poor health conditions, such as impaired growth and development.
“We know that food safety is a shared responsibility, and everyone has a role to play in ensuring we have safer food for better health: from growers to processors, to transporters, sellers, buyers, and those who prepare or serve food.
“Policy makers, educational institutions and workplaces, as well as consumers are not left out; food safety is the responsibility of all. We must all work together to help achieve safer food for better health,” she added.
She urged policy makers and food regulators to design all public procurement of food, such as food aid, school feeding and other publicly owned food outlets, so that consumers can access safe and healthy foods.
She added that they should support policy measures and legal frameworks to strengthen the national food safety system and ensure it complies with food safety standards and regulations.