Producing unsafe food is unwise – Ahwoi
Food and Agriculture Minister Kwesi Ahwoi on Wednesday said it would be very unwise to produce large quantity of food that was unsafe for public consumption.
Consuming unsafe food, he said, manifested itself in high disease burden, poor nutritional status, low productivity, limited markets, negative branding and weak economies.
Speaking at a Food Safety forum as part of activities to celebrate the 30th World Food Day in Accra, he said concerns over food safety and quality were increasing worldwide and were priority areas for governments, food producers, processors, industrialists, traders and consumers.
The programme is was organised by the World Food Programme, UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the Ministry of Food and Agriculture and the Food and Drugs Board (FDB).
World Food day is observed on October 16 and this year’s theme is “United against Hunger”.
Mr Ahwoi said the Ministry’s policy areas embraced food security and safety, competitiveness and integration into markets both domestic and international, science and technology and their application to agriculture.
The minister expressed concern about the misuse and abuse of chemicals, environmental contaminations, use of unauthorized food additives and poor sanitation at processing sites causing food related diseases such as salmonella in poultry products and aflatoxin in grains among others.
He said this had drawn the attention of government and other policy makers to the urgent need to strengthen and monitor food safety and control systems to ensure that food that reached consumers was safe.
The need for national cohesion and a coordinated effort from all stakeholders was crucial to ensure food safety, he added.
In a speech read on behalf of the FAO Regional Representative for Africa, Ms Helena Semedo, she said about one billion people still lived in chronic hunger and that food security remained one of the most urgent world-wide concerns while hunger and malnutrition still remained an African problem.
According to her, consumption of unsafe food in Ghana would continue to have a heavy impact on the health of the population and said it was estimated that one in 40 Ghanaians suffered each year from serious food borne diseases.
The total number of outpatient cases reported with food borne disease in Ghana is about 420,000 per year, with an annual death rate estimated at 65,000 and a total cost of 69 million US dollars to the economy.
Other figures, she noted, give a total of 84,000 deaths per year, with 25 per cent being children under-five.
FDB Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Steven Opuni, said assurance of food safety was a collective responsibility and food producers at all levels of production bore responsibility for the production of safe food.
The consumer, he said, was key and played a very important role in food safety control adding that the consumer therefore needed education, understanding and motivation to make informed choices.
He said FDB had made several interventions in this regard and was collaborating with Environmental Health Officers to enhance food safety in the market and offer technical support options for street food vendors.
The board he said would continue to strengthen its inter-agency collaboration with the Standards Board, Ministries of Agriculture, Local Government and Rural Development and district assemblies.
It would also intensify post-market surveillance activities and hygiene training for restaurants, hotels and street vendors to ensure safe food.