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05.05.2007 Feature Article

FOOD LABELING AND PUBLIC HEALTH IN GHANA

Do we have the equivalent of the Food and Drug Administration in Ghana? If we do, has it neglected its role in society and like many institutions of the state has become a failure? Sometime ago there was the Ghana Standards Board which existed among other things to certify all products as safe before being allowed unto to the market. All food products and body products, and all other products made in Ghana all bore the standard board logo as haven been certified as safe and haven met good production standards. Is the Ghana Standards Board still in existence?

On a recent visit to Ghana I saw all kinds of products on the market, ranging from food products, drinks, medicine, and body products, some locally made others brought into the country from all kinds of places imaginable on the planet Earth. The efficacy of some of these products are in serious doubt and so are its safety and production standards. Many of them have no labels on them, and the active ingredients that make up the product and in what amounts are not listed anywhere on the product label. Because we live in a lawless country, anybody at all can stand up and bring something into the country for sale, especially food products which have a direct effect on the public health of the country. Nobody checks to see if these products meet acceptable health standards. The fact that there has been no major food scares in the country does not mean we can take public safety for granted. Just how much do you personally care about what you eat? Do you follow any diet? Do you think food labeling is important for public health?

In the name of public health and disease prevention, we should start lobbying for compulsory food and nutrition labeling on most food products in easy to read and easy to understand way. The Standards Board must be revived and strengthened to make it work more effectively. Parliament should pass a law to make it obligatory for all importers and manufacturers of food and drinks, medicine, and body products to include on the label all the ingredients both desirable and less desirable, that make up the product and in what quantity before offering them for sale. When you peer at the fine print while trying to shop conscientiously, wouldn?t you appreciate knowing that the ? No Fat ? condiment you are about to buy is loaded with extra sugar? Right now some food products that are labeled do not breathe a word about the less desirable elements lurking in the food. The Standard Board should be equipped to conduct tests to make sure that all manufacturers and importers abide by this regulation. As of now the situation is so chaotic that it seriously poses a public health hazard. Some products on the market could be outright harmful to our health and others may have serious long term side effects.

P.S. And do we still use asbestos in our buildings? I will talk about the long term health hazards pose by asbestos used in buildings.


Ben Ofosu-Appiah,
Tokyo, JAPAN.
The author is a policy strategist advisor and a corporate trainer based in Tokyo, Japan. He is also a social and political analyst. He has written extensively on political, social, and economic issues in Ghana , Africa, and in the developing world in general.

Ben Ofosu-Appiah
Ben Ofosu-Appiah, © 2007

This author has authored 133 publications on Modern Ghana. Author column: BenOfosuAppiah

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