News The African Way

Nigerian Doctors Celebrate 2015 World Health Day, Call For Food Safety Policies

By Bello Adisa

Kaduna (Nigeria) – Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) says unsafe food alone accounts for about 10.2% of all deaths of children in Nigeria.

This is part of the 2 million annual deaths recorded worldwide resulting from preventable diseases such as diarrhoea and cancers.

To this end, the NMA branch in Kaduna, Northwest Nigeria said it would collaborate with the State Branch of the Association of Public Health Physicians of Nigeria, APHPN to embark on a farm to plate campaign as part of activities to mark the day with the theme as “Food safety; from farm to plate”.

In a statement, branch Chairman, Dr Muhammed Sani Ibrahim and Secretary, Dr Shehu Abdulrahman, said the Association lamented that no attention was paid on safety of food.

According to the statement, “As you are very much aware, every year in the month of April, the World Health Organisation sets aside April 7 as the World Health Day in order to draw the attention of the world to one issue of global public health priority.

“The problem of food safety is of utmost importance because unsafe food is responsible for over 200 preventable diseases such as diarrhoeal diseases and cancers, killing an estimated 2 million people annualy, including many children. In Nigeria, diarrhoeal diseases alone are responsible for about 10.2% of all death in children. In addition, unsafe food borne diseases may lead to long-lasting disability. Examples of unsafe food include uncooked food of animal origin, fruits and vegetables that are contaminated with faeces.

“The Kaduna State Branch of NMA, and the State Branch of the APHPN commenced the activities of this year by jointly holding phone-in radio programmes on the theme in English and Hausa languages.

“It is disturbing that no special consideration is given to the issue of food safety. Thus, the aim of our campaign is to spur Government to improve food safety by making it a priority, by integrating it into broader food policies, and by building solid food system through a multi-sectoral collaboration that brings together the agricultural, health, trade and tourism sectors. For example, we are calling on the government to make it mandatory for manufacturers of all food items to use labels that indicate the exact content of the food. This is because many manufacturers still make use of prohibited substances such as potassium bromate (sometimes used to make bread more attractive) and other food additives (such as preservatives, coloring agents, artificial sweeteners, artificial flavours) which are responsible for many diseases including cancers.

“We also hope to use this opportunity to provide practical guidance to the members of the public on the need to ensure that they maintain strict hygienic practices at all times, separate raw from cooked food, cook food thoroughly before consumption, keep food at safe storage temperatures and use only clean water and raw materials for food preparation. In addition, because most members of the public do not take the time to gather adequate knowledge about the food that they consume, it is important that every member of the public should be encouraged to always read labels of food items before consumption and be familiar with harmful food substances around them. For example, some varieties of cassava contain high amount of cyanide and so must be properly prepared and well cooked to avoid the risk of cyanide poisoning.

“Already, the Kaduna State NMA and APHPN has concluded arrangements to participate in several more radio and televion programmes within this week. It is our sincere hope that messages from this programmes will not only lead to a substantial reduction in the frequency of food borne diseases, but it will also translate into a healthier country for all Nigerians,” the statement reads.

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