A General Practitioner, Dr Tunji Akintade, has appealed to government at all levels to ensure effective monitoring and food safety practices to reduce the incidence of foodborne diseases in the country.
The former Chairman, Association of Nigerian Private Medical Practitioners, made the appeal in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria on Wednesday in Lagos, during the commemoration of the World Food Safety Day.
The World Food Safety Day is celebrated annually on June 7 with the aim of drawing attention to inspiring action to help prevent, detect and manage foodborne risks.
It also seeks to contribute to food security, human health, economic prosperity, agriculture, market access, tourism and sustainable development.
The theme for this year’s celebration is, “Food Standards Save Lives”.
Foodborne disease also referred to as foodborne illness or food poisoning is any illness that results from the consumption of food or water contaminated with pathogenic bacteria, viruses, or parasites.
Dr. Akintade noted that over the years, Nigeria had experienced repeated outbreaks of diseases transmitted through contaminated food, including cholera, Lassa fever, hepatitis A, among others.
He said that contaminated food could adversely affect the health of people, noting that there had been increasing cases of illnesses and deaths due to foodborne diseases.
“Poor food safety practices in Nigeria have exposed citizens to health hazards, and we are now seeing more cases of organ failures in hospitals.
“Unscrupulous marketers use unapproved agents to artificially ripen fruits, they use harmful chemicals for food preservation, and all these practices cause great harm to people’s health,” he said.
He urged regulatory agencies to improve on their oversight functions to check all unwholesome practices associated with food safety.
Dr. Akintade called for improved training and licensing of food vendors, and a public enlightenment campaign on hygiene, proper food handling and storage practices.
According to the World Health Organisation, over 200 diseases ranging from diarrhoea to cancers are caused by eating food contaminated with bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemical substances such as heavy metals.
The health agency said that 1.6 million people get sick daily due to unsafe food; and on average, 340 children under five years of age die daily from preventable foodborne diseases.
WHO said foodborne illnesses affected 91 million people in Africa yearly, especially vulnerable groups, leading to 137,000 deaths annually.
It noted that most foodborne diseases present as gastrointestinal issues, though they could also produce neurological, gynaecological and immunological symptoms.