Food and NutritionHealthHealth & Lifestyle

Review Public Health Act to promote food safety

An agricultural development and food systems economist has called for a comprehensive review of the Public Health Act to help address concerns of food safety and quality in food production in the country.

Professor Saa Dittoh, who lectures at the University for Development Studies (UDS), said the Act in its current form did not capture food safety and quality concerns in food production, and as a result the Plant Protection and Regulatory Services Directorate (PPRSD) of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) did not have the legal authority to enforce food safety at the production level. 

Systems

Prof. Dittoh, who was speaking at the Data Repository and Advocacy For Policy (DARAP) Project, Ghana Agri-Food Systems Research Dissemination and Policy forum in Accra, pointed out that the country needed a robust legislation that would bring all food safety players on board for effective food safety interventions.

The forum, under the auspices of the Institute of Statistical Social and Economic Research (ISSER) at the University of Ghana, was to share and discuss five findings and policy recommendations from studies commissioned under the project, share policy briefs developed as part of the project, build and strengthen relationships needed to advance the country’s agri-food systems.

The findings were on topics such as: Addressing chemical usage in farming and food safety in Ghana, Controlling food waste through resilient storage and preservation systems, and Navigating food culture transitions: policy insights from Ghana.

In a presentation on the topic: Ensuring Food Safety and Quality in Ghana, Prof. Dittoh said research showed that the country’s food policies, strategies, plans, programmes and projects over the years hardly mentioned food safety and quality, which were a major step in dealing with food contamination.

He said in order to achieve food and nutrition security, there must be workable policies, programmes and projects towards making food safety and quality key components of all food production systems.

Food contamination

He explained that food contamination took place at all levels of the food chain in crop, livestock and fisheries for aquaculture production and was at different levels of severity and seriousness in both conventional and modern food production systems.

Participants on Chemical Usage in Farming and Food Safety in Ghana

For food to be safe, he said, it must be free of substances that might be harmful to a person’s health while food quality referred to characteristics that determined the value of food, particularly its nutritional value and acceptability to consumers.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimate that about 600 million people in the world fall ill each year from consuming contaminated food and out of this number, 420,000 people die each year, Prof. Dittoh said.

According to him, food contamination could result in kidney and liver failure, brain and neural disorders as well as some non-communicable diseases such as cancer and can adversely affect reproductive health and the immune system.

Research

The research, he said, identified that there were few food safety best practices and success story interventions in local food production and marketing of raw produce and imported foodstuffs.

As part of recommendations, he said there should be food testing laboratories in all regions in the country and simple toxin’s testing kits made available at the community and farm levels for routine and constant testing.  He also recommended the establishment of well-constructed farmers markets based on high sanitation and food standards along major highways.

“The Environmental Health personnel of the MMDAs should intensify supervision and monitoring of agriculture produce markets to decrease or prevent the deliberate adulteration of produce and forced ripening of fruits and vegetables. They should be adequately resourced to undertake these critical activities”.

The Project Coordinator of DARAP Dr Fred Mawunyo Dzanku, said the Agri food systems project sought to collaborate with people who could help communicate science and evidence in a way that people who were supposed to use the evidence could understand and use it effectively, especially politicians, in their manifestos.

Source: graphic.com.gh

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