Food safety must be prioritized – Minister

Ghana needs to prioritise issues of food safety so as to make strides in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals of zero hunger, good health and well-being as well as affordable and clean energy.

Dr Kwaku Agyemang-Manu, the Minister of Health, who made the call on Friday, said the country was currently faced with critical challenges in ensuring food safety.

Dr Agyemang-Manu was speaking at the 2019 Maiden World Food Safety Day Celebration Symposium in Accra on the theme: “Food Safety, everyone’s business.”

The Symposium is to identify and discuss pertinent food safety issues along the food chain, coming up with recommendations that responsible institutions can implement and reporting on them at the next World Food Safety Day.

On December 20, 2018, the United Nations General Assembly adopted resolution 73/250 proclaiming a World Food Safety Day.

He commended the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) and its collaborator, Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) for organizing the symposium, where issues of food safety from farm to fork would be discussed.

He said the threat of foodborne disease to attainment of the SDG goals was huge, saying every citizen had a key role to play towards achieving the ultimate goal of food sustainability.

Besides, every stakeholder institution must be committed to implementing policies and legislations that support sustainable food systems.

The Minister said efforts have been made over the years towards achieving the goal of food safety, however there was more to be done and together “we can achieve more.”

“So, as we look to the future, it is vital that we continue to strengthen food control systems,” he added.

Dr Agyemang-Manu said one particular area that the country must make a priority was overcoming food waste due to contamination.

He said as a country “we waste around one-third of total food produced for human consumption due to poor storage, improper means of transportation and market practices such as adulteration.”

He called on experts to deliberate on and come out with recommendations that were implementable and not one meant for the books and shelves.

Dr Abebe Haile-Gabriel, the Assistant Director General and Regional Representative for Africa, said while “we focus on the goal of achieving food security and nutrition for all, we cannot overemphasize the crucial significance of the safety and quality of such food produced for human consumption.”

“Unsafe food is no food at all,” he added.

He said FAO was supporting the efforts of the Government in improving the safety and nutritional balance of food – through the collaboration with the FDA on “Healthy Street Food Incentives” to boost the safety and nutritional balance of street food.

He said like several other countries in the African region, Ghana also faces several obstacles and challenges to ensure the safety of food produced or imported.

Dr Abebe said these might be related to some gaps in policy and legal frameworks, food control functions, inadequate institutional arrangements, and the weak knowledge and science base.

He said it was important that stakeholders understand the situation of food safety, what and how human factors negatively affected food safety, and the critical points in the entire food value chains.

“With such knowledge at hand, the necessary measures can be designed and implemented to mitigate the risk of being sick from the consumption of unsafe food, “he added.

He acknowledged the commitment of Ghana to food safety, in terms of taking concrete actions, including adopting a Food Safety Policy in 2015 as well as the Antimicrobial Policy and Action Plan in 2018.

Mrs Delese Mimi Darko, the Chief Executive Officer of FDA, said everyone had a critical role in assuring the food stayed safe at every stage of the food chain; from production through harvest, transportation, processing, storage, distribution all the way to consumption.

She said there was no food security without food safety.

She said safe food handling practices helped to preserve food’s peak quality and makes one enjoy to the fullest the nutritional benefits of food.

Mrs Darko expressed the believe that everyone had the responsibility to spearhead safe food handling practices in their homes, market places, workplaces and every other place they found themselves.

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