-Call for Health Screenings, Training on Hygiene
Nigerian researchers have identified food vendors as potential sources of infectious diseases in the country, saying food can constitute a vehicle through which diseases can be transmitted from person to person as well as serve as growth medium for micro-organisms that can cause food poisoning. Thus, in reducing the burden of food borne diseases in Nigeria, the scientists have called for the medical screening and training of food handlers.
The experts emphasized the importance of such exercise, especially in a state like Lagos, where more than half of its over 15 million population eats at least one meal outside their homes, an action that predisposes them to food borne infections, if the food handlers are not screened and treated if found with any bacteria or fungi infection.
Speaking at the Official Flag-Off of the Comprehensive Screening of Food Handlers and Consumers in selected Local Government Areas in Lagos State, held at the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR), on Thursday, Professor Babatunde Salako, Director General, NIMR, said it has been projected that infectious diseases may surpass its current status if nothing is done to drastically reduce the burden. And since it is known that some infectious diseases are food borne, the need to screen food vendors has become a necessity.
Acknowledging the aphorism that prevention is better than cure, Salako noted that the need to screen and teach the caterers cannot be overemphasized, as they have direct effects on the health of the populace either positively or negatively.
“Morbidity is a general problem in the country, as many patients are finding it difficult to purchase drugs which are not free, although some states claim to give free healthcare to some categories of citizens, but a wide gap still exists. Therefore, any effort aimed at reducing morbidity and mortality should be embraced and given total support”, he asserted.
The NIMR boss who disclosed that the research and health advocacy is a constituency project sponsored by the Speaker of the Federal House of Representatives, National Assembly, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, said such public health measures are needed at regular intervals in the state and nation as a whole, in order to curb the spread of infectious diseases in the country.
He also urged the body of food vendors and handlers to cooperate with the institution for the research and screening, as some of them may be carriers of some parasites, which they could transmit to their customers if proper care is not taken to screen and treat them of the diseases.
“If we are able to deliver germ-free foods to the public, it will lead to a healthier nation”, he averred.
The Chairman of the occasion, Dr Mobolaji Obadeyi, who is also the chief medical officer, Deloitte & Touche, Nigeria, mentioned the importance of good food to the society, saying good food saves lives.
She said: “If we are doing food right, it means we are doing something right, but if the reverse is the case, that means we have a long way to go in contending the burden of food borne diseases”.
Obadeyi, who is also a member of Governing Board, Lagos State Primary Healthcare Board, lauded the aptness of the research for Lagos State, which she described as a country within a country, as it attracts more seriousness and concern by all stakeholders. She called for the adoption of a trainer-trainee approach, as the trainers should be made to extend the training to their workers back at home.
The Principal Investigator for the research, Dr Toyosi Raheem, expatiated on the essence of the project, stating that human health is substantially dependent on what we eat and drink. With most Lagosians spending most of their times outside their homes, and majority relying on food hawked at parks, restaurants and canteens, by food handlers, such foods, if not properly handled by caterers could constitute sources of morbidity and mortality.
He disclosed the rationale of the investigation is to screen for bacteriological and parasitological diseases which can be transmitted from food handlers to the consumers of the food through direct contact with food (including fruits and drinks) or cooking utensils.
Concerning the sampling population for the research, he said his team selected a random sample of food handlers from five local government areas in Lagos which are Lagos Mainland, Surulere, Oshodi-Isolo, Ikorodu, and Alimosho. While components of the project, according to him are advocacy; food handlers’ health screening, food quality check, field research work and feedback.