By Ige Olugbenga
The Federal Ministry of Health in collaboration with the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) under the European Union (EU) sponsored Nigeria Quality Infrastructure Project (NQIP) commenced a two-day capacity building workshop on food safety practices for food and non-food handlers across Kogi state.
Participants at the workshop on Wednesday included farmers, food handlers,non-foodd handlers, consumer associations and other stakeholders in agribusiness, amongst others.
The Minister of Health, Prof Isaac Adewole, at the commencement of the training in Lokoja, said the initiative was designed to impart knowledge on food safety practices with a view to addressing the burden food-borne diseases emanating from consumption of unsafe food has put on the country in recent times.
The minister who was represented on the occasion by Anthonia Okpara, a director of food, water and chemical division in the ministry, noted that similar training would be held subsequently in other states of the federation in order to entrench a culture of food safety from the point of production, processing and packaging down to consumption.
He said the country had in recent years been plagued with preventable food-borne disease outbreaks such as cholera, typhoid fever, lassa fever and methanol poisoning as well as presence of aflatoxin in nuts and seres consumed by unsuspecting members of the public, hence the need to sensitise food handlers on the need to imbibe food safety culture and hygiene practices.
“Over the past 20 years, food safety has become one major topics globally in the health sector considering the impact of unsafe food on the population especially on children below the age of five years, immuno-compromised as well as the elderly.
He said the training was imperative as it forms part of the strategies for the implementation of the National Policy on Food Safety which, amongst others, aims at promoting safe food practices at the grassroots, improve the safety and quality of farm produce; reduce the food-borne disease burden of the country and also reduce the rate of rejection of food produced in the country at the international trade.
UNIDO’s National Expert on Food Safety, Tehinse John, said the training would go a long way in enhancing the acceptability of Nigeria’s agricultural products in the international market.
“This project is to build the capacity of Nigerians to be able to supply good and safe food products to the international market. We realise that of late that majority of our products, particularly Agric products are not allowed in international market due to safety concerns.
“This project is aimed at correcting all the anomalies by building the capacities of stakeholders to produce goods that meet international requirements. Kogi State has been identified as one of the states that has potential to lead in Agric business. We feel that if the state is able to get it right in terms of improving food safety culture, then we will be able to improve agribusiness in the state,” he said.
On his part, Kogi State Governor Yahaya Bello said the need for education on food safety could not be over emphasised, saying that the quality of people’s depend largely on the quality of food they eat.
The governor, who was represented by his deputy, Simon Achuba, urged the participants to take the training serious and ensure they imbibe food safety culture at the end of the day.