Unsafe food increases risk of disease, malnutrition, experts warn

Unsafe food increases risk of disease, malnutrition, experts warn

Angela Onwuzoo<

Renowned food experts have urged Nigerians to pay better attention to food safety, warning that unsafe food increases the risk of diseases and malnutrition.

The experts spoke on Tuesday at a webinar organised by the PUNCH Media Foundation in commemoration of the 2022 World Food Safety Day.

The webinar themed: “Food security, nutrition, and food safety: the role of stakeholders in achieving better health through safer food”, was aimed at promoting safer food, nutrition, and food security to achieve better health.

According to the experts, unsafe food has an attendant effect not just on health but on food security.

The experts who spoke at the webinar include, Prof. Ngozi Nnam, President, Federation of African Nutrition Societies; Sulaimon Arigbabu, Executive Secretary of HEDA Resource Centre; Edu Ogbonnaya, Founder, Farm Awareness for Food Preservation Initiative, Chief (Mrs) Folashade Tinubu-Ojo, the Iyaloja-General, President-General, Association of Market Women and Men of Nigeria who was represented by Mojisola Odusanya, Board member, Lagos State Market Advisory Council and 

The event which was moderated by media personality and Managing Director of Yellow Tamarind Productions, Isabella Adediji also featured, Tunde Ogunrinde, Chief Executive Officer/ Managing Director of JUST FOOD and Rotimi Sankore, Executive Director / Editor-in-Chief of the Africa Centre for Development Journalism. 

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Speaking at the webinar, Nnam, a professor of Community and Public Health Nutrition at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, stressed that food safety, nutrition and food security were closely linked.

The nutritionist noted that unsafe food creates a vicious circle of disease, malnutrition and food insecurity.

She explained, “This is because food security has to do with people having access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious foods that meet their dietary needs for an active healthy life. 

Food should not just be available and accessible to people but should be utilised by the body when consumed to achieve good health.

“Utilisation actually is the last aspect of food security. If food is not utilised, food security, as well as nutritious food, is compromised. 

“One of the reasons why food is not utilised is because it’s not safe. Safe food should be provided for the body to adequately absorb it and utilise it to function well.”

Nnam stated further that for food to be safe, it must be free from physical, chemical and biological contamination during storage, processing, transportation, preparation and other processes in food. 

Food, she said, could be contaminated by pathogens like bacteria, fungus as well as rodents, and insecticides, among others.

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The don pointed out that the contamination will result in diseases like diarrhoea, adding that diarrhoea is responsible for regular hospital visits of children under five. 

The professor also noted that food vendors were a major source of food contamination, noting that the way some vendors display food on the road is unacceptable.

Food vendors, she said, were in the habit of exposing foods to pathogens and bacteria.

“Food should be covered and not exposed to contaminants. They should be stored to avoid exposure to bacteria. 

“Avoid contaminating food with pathogens. Keep the food preparation area clean. Food kept in the freezer should be consumed within five days. Use clean water in preparing food. Boil your meat very well to destroy pathogens. Don’t allow your cooked food to stay more than two hours before consuming it,” the nutrition expert said.

World Food Safety Day is celebrated annually on 7 June to draw attention and mobilise action to prevent, detect and manage foodborne risks and improve human health.

The theme for this year’s commemoration was, “Safer food, better health” which highlights the role that safe and nutritious food plays in ensuring human health.

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Food safety, nutrition, and food security are inextricably linked, according to the World Health Organisation.

WHO noted that unsafe food containing harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites, or chemical substances, causes more than 200 diseases – ranging from diarrhoea to cancers.

The global health body says an estimated 600 million – almost one in 10 people in the world – fall ill after eating contaminated food and 420 000 die every year, resulting in the loss of 33 million healthy life years.

The PUNCH Media Foundation is a non-l organisation and the nonprofit arm of PUNCH Nigeria Limited, publisher of PUNCH Newspapers.

The PUNCH Media Foundation was established in 2019 and aimed to promote active public engagement, accountability, good governance, and free enterprise using the instrument of public policy advocacy, digital journalism, investigative journalism, and media development.

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