Takoradi, June 20, GNA - Major Courage Quashigah (rtd), Minister of Health, on Monday called on district, municipal and metropolitan assemblies to ensure safe food handling in markets in their localities. He made the call in an address read for him by Dr (Mrs) Gladys Norley Ashitey, Deputy Minister of Health, at the launching of the third National Food Safety Week in Takoradi. The week is under the theme: "Food Safety-Key to Healthy Living."
Major Quashigah said the inadequacy of basic amenities such as water, sanitation and solid waste disposal in some markets, lead to widespread contamination of food, especially fruits and vegetables and thus posing health hazards to the consuming public. He said some traditional and socio-economic attitudes and practices in the market place could be at odds with accepted hygiene principles of food safety, irrespective of the length of time they have been practiced and the values attached to them.
Major Quashigah said the consumer must demand that food sold in the market is presented in a more hygienic manner. He said, "We should not always be driven by low prices but by sanitary environment and safety of the product".
Major Quashigah said, "The market authorities also have their unique role of ensuring that food products are sold under conditions that would not compromise the safety of the commodity". He said the European Union recently rejected some Ghanaian agro-produce including palm oil and chills for failing to meet safety standards of the Union.
Major Quashigah said the loss incurred in monetary terms is huge and the country also runs the risk of being branded as an unworthy business partner with poor safety standards. He said the method of production, harvesting, haulage, processing, storage packaging and retailing needs to be improved.
Major Quashigah said food safety could be assured from the farm to the dinning table through the application of appropriate food safety management systems, such as hazards analyses and critical control points (HACCP). He said the Ghana Health Service (GHS) has raised strong concerns about the high level of consumption of all types of alcoholic beverages. Major Quashigah said the GHS is further championing the crusade on the smoking of tobacco and the Ministry of Health has taken active interest in this observation as they have an impact on the National Health Service Scheme. He said the Food and Drugs Board (FDB) would soon come out with new regulations on labelling and advertisement of alcoholic beverages.
In an address read for him, Mr Joseph Boahen Aidoo, Western Regional Minister, asked the FDB to work closely with the National Commission for Civic Education, the Information Service Department, Ghana Education Service, District Assemblies and the media to intensify educational campaign on food safety. He said, "No stone must be left unturned to ensure that our people know the right thing to do, as far as balanced diets and food hygiene are concerned". Mr Aidoo said a lot of the problem borders on behavioural change and due to the fact that these practices have gone on for years, the perpetrators do not think that they are at risk. Mr Emmanuel Agyarko, Chief Executive Officer of the FDB said the Board was fully committed to ensuring the safety and quality of food consumed in the country.
Mr Agyarko said no mandatory activity could achieve this objective without the cooperation and active participation of all stakeholders. He said the Board is strengthening the food-manufacturing sector by means of training programmes, which have been endorsed by the National Resource Institute (NRI) of the Greenwich University in the United Kingdom. Mr Agyarko said so far, thirty industries and sixty Quality Assurance Managers have been trained in HACCP. He said twenty-five other professionals from the industry would undergo similar training in food safety.
Mr Agyarko said the Board has established the Industrial Support Services Department, solely to support the food industry and the department is manned by certified HACCP tutors and auditors certified by the British Retail Consortium. He said the Board is studying a report on a survey conducted by the Food Research Institute on food adulteration in the country.
Mr Agyarko said some portions of the report are very disturbing and the Board will relentlessly pursue all means to improve the situation. There were solidarity messages from the World Health Organisation, Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Ministry of Women and Children's Affairs, Ghana Tourists Board and the Codex Alimentarius Committee. Professor Samuel Yeboah-Mensah, Dean of the Faculty of Science, University of Cape Coast, presided.