Lagos – A food safety expert, Dr Malgwi Usman, on Friday advised Nigerians against consuming food sold by roadside vendors to reduce the risk of food and water borne diseases.
Usman, the National Project Coordinator of Food Safety and Hygiene, Africa Hope Foundation (AHF), an NGO,gave the advice in an interview in Lagos.
He said that the manner in which such food sold in motor parks and traffic jams were prepared was unwholesome.
“We are in a society where there is no regulation and standardisation of most things, especially in the food sector.
“This gives room for people to prepare things anyhow, anywhere and with anything.
“Foods and consumables are prepared in dirty surroundings with unclean utensils and water and flies perch on them anyhow.
“The packaging and presentation of these foods are also unhygienic and a major threat to life.
“But people buy and consume them either because they are in a hurry, ignorant or do not have alternatives; generally, the average Nigerian goes for quantity instead of quality,’’ Usman said.
He said that food handlers with poor personal hygiene and knowledge of health education were potential sources of infections.
“These substandard food products that are supposed to sustain lives have become severe threat to us and most food handlers have poor knowledge of food hygiene.
“Some researches show that in developing countries like ours, biological contaminants largely bacteria and other parasites constitute the major causes of food-borne diseases.
“These are often transmitted through food, water, nails and fingers contaminated with faeces and consumption of these foods cause food poisoning, diarrhoea, cholera, typhoid fever and many other diseases.
“Many of these ailments, if not handled properly, could affect vital organs in the body and consequently lead to death,’’ Usman said.
“These food vendors also have a very low frequency of hand washing and personal hygiene. They present and sell unsafe food and water, their storage of food is also poor.
“Daily we all eat moi-moi, akara, yam, pounded yam, pap, plantain and other food items from these unclean places.
“They all have in one way or the other adulterated our foods with dust mites, their sweat, unclean hands and improperly washed utensils.’’
Usman called on the government to embark on massive health education campaign to sensitise both the public and food handlers on necessary steps to prevent food and water borne diseases.
“It has become very crucial to institute specific bodies to oversee the people that sell foods and consumables, especially those that sell by the roadside.
“There should be a collaboration of stakeholders like the Federal Ministries of Health, Education, Environment, Agriculture and Rural development, National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), and Consumer Protection Council.
“They should be able to come together and develop a framework to monitor, sensitise, enforce and prosecute food handlers who do not keep to the minimum standards of hygiene,’’ he said.
According to him, this will go a long way to reduce incidences of food and water borne diseases as well as help the country to achieve some of the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs). (NAN)