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Education Before Punishment

Feb 13, 2009, 4:50 AM

We stand firmly behind the Department of State for Health and Social Welfare in its recent call for a rigorous application of hygiene standards in the production of bread and other consumable items. The call came through the program manager at the Food Hygiene and Safety Unit, who has demanded that all people involved in the transportation, handling and selling of bread and other foodstuffs comply to the letter of the law with the Public Health Act, 1990 and Food Hygiene and Safety Act 2005.

Speaking in an interview with The Point recently at his office in Banjul, The program manager of the Food Hygiene and Safety Unit, Momodou Lamin Nget, said that there are recent laws passed out to all bread bakers and foodstuff sellers. According to him, the requirements include that all bakeries in the country must be kept clean at all times, including the premises, and the utensils used in the making of bread.

Bread is the staple diet of so many Gambians, along with rice, that most of us will eat it every day. Sometimes it can be truly terrible to see the conditions in which the bread is stored. It is, in short, a health hazard. It is the duty of all Gambians to report any vendor that they see behaving in an unhygienic way as the possibility of contamination means this is literally a life and death situation.

Nget also stated that all bread bakers must wash their bodies and wear clean protective clothing. All bakery buildings must be lime-wash every 6 months, notably in white. He however added that anybody who is involved in preparing, handling, transporting and selling bread must be screened thoroughly against what he called salmonella shegilla and other parasitic infections every 6 months. 

This is an extremely prudent approach and one which will bear great fruit for The Gambia as a nation. Our health is our wealth and we must do all in our power to protect it. We must be extremely vigilant in terms of these regulations and ensure that all of us are watching out for each other.

We also ask however that the department be realistic in their approach to this issue. We must have a grace period during which time vendors must be educated to behave in an hygienic manner. When this period elapses then there will be no excuse, but for now we must educate all to the extreme danger that unsafe practices pose to the health of our nation. A sensible approach coupled with rigorous enforcement will be of great benefit to us all.