Nigeria must embrace digital innovation to achieve food safety -Minister

The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, says that the country needs to embrace digital innovation with advancing scientific solution to enhance food safety in Nigeria.

Osagie, represented by Minister of State for Health, Dr Olorunnimbe Mamora, said this on Monday in Abuja at a news briefing to mark 2021 World Food Safety Day with the slogan “Food Safety is Every One’s Business’’.

He said that the availability of safe and healthy food for all could be sustained into the future by embracing digital innovations, advancing scientific solutions and honouring traditional knowledge that has stood the test of time.

The minister said that the global foodborne disease burden affects mostly children under five and vulnerable population.

“Food is health product and the first component of basic health is delivery.

“Food is the fundamental of health and for this food to ultimately function as a health product for well being of people, the food must be safe, so food safety is a basic human right,’’ Osagie.

He said that in line with the theme “Safe Food now for a Healthy Tomorrow’’ meant that production and consumption of safe food have immediate and long-term benefits for people, the planet and the economy.

Osagie said that the country’s food system needed to produce enough safe food for all.

According to him, recognising the systemic connections between the health of people, animals, plants, the environment and the economy will help the nation meets the need of the future.

Osagie said that a risk-based approach to food safety requirements could help keep global food supplies open and enable consumer access to food.

He said that concerted efforts on food safety would help Nigeria mitigate the socio-economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to him, it will boost the resilience for the long term by facilitating and accelerating food and agricultural trade and help to prevent the next zoonotic pandemic and transform the food safety systems.

Osagie said that the key challenges facing the enhancement of food safety for all tiers of government and the society were lack of awareness, paucity of data and information on the incidence of foodborne disease outbreak.

Others, he said, included a lack of understanding of food safety and quality standards as outlined in an international agreement and an inability to enforce compliance with international standards and global best practices.

According to him, other challenges are inadequate infrastructure and resources to support scientific risk analysis and upgrading of food safety regulatory system inefficient food supply chain and poor traceability system.

Osagie said that the ministry with the support of development partners had done capacity building of food handlers and developed unified food safety training manuals for various food handlers.

Dr Walter  Mulombo, Head of Mission and Representative of World Health Organisation (WHO), Nigeria, said that everyone irrespective of their age, gender, health and economic status had the right to have access to safe, sufficient, and nutritious food.

According to him, safe food assures improved nutrition, promotes the health and vitality of families and communities.

He said that globally, an estimated 600 million almost one in 10 people in the world fall ill after eating contaminated food and 420 000 died every year.

“Consequently, in 2018, the United Nations General Assembly adopted resolution 73/250 proclaiming 7 June as World Food Safety Day.

“Taking into account the global burden of food-borne diseases, which affect individuals of all ages, in particular children under five years and persons living in low-income regions.

“The resolution acknowledges that “there is no food security without food safety and that in a world where the food supply chain has become more complex.

“Any adverse food safety incident may have global negative effects on public health, trade and the economy,’’ Mulombo said.

He said that the theme emphasised that production and consumption of safe food have immediate and long-term benefits for people, the planet and the economy.

Mulombo said that recognising the systemic One-Health connections between the health of people, animals, plants, the environment and in relation to the economy, would help Nigeria meet the needs of the future.

According to him, though it is evident that COVID-19 has not been transmitted by food, the pandemic has sharpened the focus on food safety-related issues, such as hygiene and antimicrobial resistance.

Others are zoonotic diseases, climate change, food fraud and the potential benefits of digitalising food systems.

It has also highlighted weaknesses or vulnerabilities in food production and control systems, he said.

Mulombo said that in recognising that women were very important players in the promotion of food safety and home hygiene, WHO trained 345 women leaders,

“In 2019 WHO trained 345 women leaders from Edo and Ondo States on food hygiene and domestic sanitation towards the prevention of Lassa fever,’’ he told NAN.

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