The Tema Health Directorate of the Ghana Health Services (GHS) has initiated a healthy food concept aimed at improving nutrition and food hygiene in the Tema Municipality.
Dr. Ernestina Mensah-Quainoo, Tema Municipal Director of Health Services, who disclosed this to the Times here, explained that the concept ensures that food is hygienically prepared and fortified with soya to increase protein, vitamin and content of the food and packaged properly to prevent contamination.
Illnesses and deaths are due to malnutrition and food borne diseases like diarrhoea, cholera and typhoid fever particularly in children under five, pregnant women, among others.
She said the food concept was in response to previous research by organisations such as Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research and the Food Research Institute of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, which showed that many street foods in Ghana might be contaminated.
She added that a research done by the GHS from 2003 to 2004 also showed that there was much food buying from the streets to feed children, especially those under five.
The findings, according to her, showed that 60 to 70 per cent of mothers interviewed had bought at least one meal to feed their children under five years the preceding 24 hours.
She said, "the composition of the food was not nutritious and this showed that a lot of children are at risk but their mothers preferred buying food to cooking because they were busy, could not find ingredients easily or found buying food cheaper."
Dr. Mensah-Quainoo said the food concept therefore examines the problems associated with the preparation, handling and packaging of Ghanaian food in order to improve the hygiene and nutritional value of food sold to the public.
She said the Directorate was also demonstrating how to display and market food under the concept at designated points in Tema. Among the food discussed are kenkey, banku, porridge and rice water.
According to her, a practical skills training course to train food sellers in the concept is being developed but the lack of funds had delayed progress.
She therefore appealed to corporate bodies to assist the GHS to train mere food sellers.
The Municipal Director of Health Services indicated that the issue of food borne diseases was a serious one and needed to be addressed well.
She said last year for instance, 168 persons suffered cholera in the Municipality and eight lives were lost, adding that a close study showed that they had consumed food bought from wayside food vendors.
She therefore advised the general public to ensure that cooked food is not handled with bare unwashed hands, exposed to dust or flies before consumption.