The First Food Safety Conference to develop strategies to counter emerging challenges in food chain and to promote safe food practices among Ghanaians has been launched in Accra.
The three-day Food Safety Sensitisation Programme organised by the Food and Drugs Authority brought together more than 150 scientists, policymakers, experts and consumers to share ideas, practices and perspectives on issues that would promote safe food handling practices.
The conference on the theme: “Enhancing Food Security through Safe Food Practices” is also intended to address how to detect unsafe food, fight food fraud and food imitation.
Mr Abebe Haile Gabriel, the Regional Programme Leader for Africa, Food and Agriculture Organisation, in a keynote address, said the environment within which producers, suppliers and manufacturers operated continued to evolve at an ever-increasing rate, with new hazards and pathogens.
This, he said, had been worsened by the globalisation of the food supply chain, pressures of climate change and population growth, rapid urbanisation, complexity of food preparation and changes in food consumption.
He said in 2010, foodborne hazards caused an estimated 600,000 million illnesses and 420,000 deaths across the world.
He said an estimated 40 per cent of this disease burden, was among children under five years of age, whilst significant cases of foodborne related diseases and risks were not reported.
However, he said, these facts and trends had called for the need to address such threats in a comprehensive approach, oriented to the entire food chain.
He, therefore, assured the FDA of the FAO’s continuous support in ensuring food safety.
Mr Kwaku Agyemang Manu, the Minister of Health in a speech read on his behalf, said consumers were demanding protection for the whole food supply chain.
He said this would occur if all sectors in the chain worked in an integrated way, thereby building consumer confidence in the safety of food products.
Mrs Delese Darko, the Chief Executive Officer of the FDA observed that some conditions and activities at marketplaces contaminated food which could compromise food safety and health.
She mentioned exposure of produce to unfavourable storage conditions, poor hygienic practices and food adulteration as some of the challenges.
She said these challenges threatened food security in Ghana, saying “1856.56 metric tons of pre-packaged food was destroyed in 2016 due to poor storage practices and food fraud alone is estimated to cost consumers up to §40 Billion globally and the food industry §10-15 billion per year.
Mrs Darko said the FDA in line with its mandate to protect public health and safety had carried out several investigations into activities of food fraud in recent times, some which are: the adulteration of palm oil with Sudan IV dye, the mixing of powdered pepper with bixa seeds and the coloring of corn chaff as tomato powder, just to mention but a few.
Dr Sammy Ohene, the Chairman of the Governing Board, FDA, said due to the unhealthy practices along the chain of food production, processing and handling, future policy direction in addressing these challenges was critical.
He said issues like the slaughter and burning of animal skin with rubber tires, followed by cleaning with polluted water amongst others were harmful.
Other activities outlined for the conference include; Market Durbars, and What Do You Know Quiz amongst students in second cycle institutions.