World Food Safety Day: 91 million Africans in danger of consuming of contaminated foods

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…Estimated 137,000 dead from food poisoning

By Chika Onyesi

Foods containing harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemical substances are estimated to be the leading cause of diseases ranging from acute diarrhoea to lifelong conditions, including some cancers.

According to the World Health Organisation, such contaminated foods have led to 137,000 deaths annually in Africa alone.

This high mortality ratio according to the world health body is because an estimated 91 million people in Africa are exposed to contaminated food daily and consume same.

In 2015, an estimated 159 million people were recorded to still collect drinking water directly from surface water sources, 58% of this figure were from sub-Saharan Africa.

This is why the WHO says the risk  of foodborne diseases is most severe in low- and- middle income countries and often linked to preparing food with unsafe water; poor hygiene and inadequate conditions in food production and storage.

Following the rising cost of food contamination to individual lives and country’s economies, the United Nations is now taking time to raise global attention on the inherent dangers and also highlight the solutions that individuals, and governments must implement to protect the quality of food consumed.

The Theme for this first World Food Safety Day “Food Safety, Everyone’s Business”, experts says commemoration of the day is a tactical approach to ending food contamination.

The World Health Organization Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, said “Foodborne diseases are completely preventable.” All players along the food chain have a role in making food safe, beginning with producers and processors and moving to distributors, food safety regulators, retailers and eventually servers and consumers.”

‘‘Contaminated food not only affects human health, it taints food security, economic prosperity, agriculture vitality, market access, tourism and sustainable development. Although everyone is susceptible, infants, young children, pregnant women, older persons and individuals with a weakened immune system (such as HIV infection, liver disease or who are on cancer treatment) are particularly vulnerable’’.

The World Health organisation has in the past demonstrated its support to Africa in strengthen the laboratory-based foodborne disease surveillance and building national capacity to prevent, detect and respond to food safety emergencies.

It has collaborated with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in the strengthening of national networks and participation in the International Food Safety Authorities Network.

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