Food Safety is public health safety

Thursday, August 04, 2016

The Gambia Standards Bureau supported by the West Africa Quality System Programme (WAGSP) has just concluded another national training workshop on food safety aimed at achieving a proper implementation of the food safety management system in the country.

The training was geared towards building national capacity in the implementation of quality, environmental, health and food safety management systems. It, therefore, targeted core participants in the food production and distribution chain.

There is no gainsaying that such an undertaking is on the right track to achieving public health safety, as millions of people fall ill every year and many die around the world, as a result of eating unsafe food.

Therefore, making sure that food does not cause harm to the consumer when it is prepared and/or eaten according to its intended use, is actually ensuring public health safety.

Food safety is related to the presence of food-borne hazards in food at the point of consumption, according to health experts.

Introduction of hazards can occur at any stage of the food chain (from the producing to the processing and manufacturing stage of food products) hence adequate control throughout the chain is essential, they say.

“A food safety hazard is a biological, chemical or physical agent in food or condition of food with the potential to cause an adverse health effect,” says Kenyan expert and trainer on food safety Beatrice Opiyo. “Such controls are defined in the ISO 22000 standard.”

The World Health Organisation estimates that foodborne and waterborne diarrhoeal diseases together kill about 2.2 million people annually, 1.9 million of them children.

Up to one-third of the populations of developed countries are affected by food borne illness each year, and that the problem is likely to be even “more widespread in developing countries”.

Food borne illness always has grave effects on national health and economy, as whenever it strikes it takes serious toll on the lives of a country’s population, as well as devastates its economy by discouraging trade in the affected commodity (whether raw, processed or manufactured), including visitors to that country.

The Mad cow disease in the UK; the aflatoxin-related deaths, and the methanol laced alcoholic spirits are just a few of the incidences of food hazards that have had catastrophic effects on lives and economies of nations around the world.

So we must commend the Standards Bureau and its supporting institutions such as WAQSP for the essential training they have been conducting over time on food safety.

“In The Gambia, it is very important we look at how we should make our food safe. ”

Beatrice Opiyo