An inspection of cold storage facilities in Accra and Tema by officials of the Food and Drugs Board (FDB) has revealed a trend of poor sanitation and improper packaging of meat and fish with serious implications for the safety of consumers.
At a workshop organised by the board on good cold store storage practices, the Head of Animal Products and Safety Department of the board, Dr Mohammed M. Alfa, said there was ample evidence of chemical and biological contamination of meat and fish in most of the cold stores inspected.
He said although a few of the cold stores operated under very hygienic conditions, majority of them were deeply steeped in practices that clearly posed serious health risks to consumers.
Photos of poorly packaged meat and fish dumped on the bare floor and packaged close to walls with paint that was peeling off, were shown to the participants.
Dr Alfa said it was erroneous to assume that because the meat or fish would be cooked before eating, what happened to it at the cold store did not matter.
“Not only are the germs harmful but also the toxins they produce. Some of the toxins are thermo-stable and are not destroyed with cooking. I don't want to accept the statement that African stomach fears no germs,” he warned.
He said recommendations were made to defaulting companies to ensure adherence to good cold storage procedure and explained that in very bad situations, the board suspended operations, destroyed stocks and ensured that basic good cold storage practices were implemented before such companies resumed operations.
The Chief Executive Officer of the FDB, Mr E. K. Agyarko, in a speech read on his behalf, said between January and October, 2008, close to 15,000 cartons of imported unwholesome products had been destroyed in Tema alone.
According to him, that translated into a loss of about GH¢4,500,000 worth of revenue.
“I would like to state that we do not take pride in destroying products, neither are we out to collapse businesses. We are here to support operators and to ensure that you maximise profit through good cold storage practices while ensuring public health and safety,” he stated.
He stressed the need to animal products such as meat, poultry and fish, to be properly handled, since they were highly perishable.
“The need for safe animal product has become very important in view of the numerous food-borne diseases associated with poor meat/fish handling coupled with the fact that poverty and ignorance have made many consumers less discriminatory in the choice of when and where to buy what,” he noted.
Story by Daniel Nkrumah