By Esther Onyegbula
The Director-General, National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC, Prof Mojisola Adeyeye, has urged Nigerians to always ensure that only safe and wholesome foods were consumed to boost the immunity and improve the body’s natural defences in fighting diseases.
She also said Nigerians do not need medicines, if they ate right, stressing that eating right meant making healthy food choices from safe, wholesome, and nutritious foods.
Adeyeye, who gave the admonition at NAFDAC celebration of the 4th World Food Safety Day 2022, with the theme “Safer Food, Better Health,” opined that where food was unsafe, nutritional goals could not be achieved.
Adeyeye noted that safe food was an essential component of sustainable development and contributes towards improvement of public health, poverty reduction, and increased food security.
She said the theme for this year’s celebration was apt, as the world gradually returned to normal with the COVID-19 pandemic, having lost its firm grip on the world.
Adeyeye pointed out that the theme also aligned with the World Health Assembly 75 theme, which is “Health for Peace and Peace for Health,” adding that safer food took the front and centre position for better health and relative personal and world peace.
‘’You all know my popular saying about not needing medicine if one eats right. Eating right means making healthy food choices from safe, wholesome, and nutritious foods,” she said.
She stressed that the occasion of World Food Safety Day remained an added opportunity to create and generate awareness around food safety and situate it as a very significant issue of public health concern, especially in the light of safe, wholesome food being important for boosting immunity and improving the body’s natural defenses in fighting diseases.
She noted that these were important players whose activities fell within the informal sector, and constituted a significant part of national food supply.
Prof Adeyeye, however, noted with dismay that their activities were of concern regarding safe food practices or lack of it, adding that these foods were frequently exposed to less than hygienic and sanitary conditions, resulting in contamination and leading to incidences and outbreaks of food borne diseases, situations steadily becoming significant food safety concerns.
The NAFDAC boss disclosed that unsafe foods were the cause of many diseases and contribute to other poor health conditions, such as impaired growth and development.
“We know that food safety is a shared responsibility, and everyone has a role to play in ensuring we have safer food for better health: from growers to processors, to transporters, sellers, buyers, and those who prepare or serve food,” she said.
Seeks private sector collaboration on rice fortification
Meanwhile, the agency has called for robust participation of both government and the private sector in the national rice fortification agenda.
Director, Food Safety and Applied Nutrition Directorate, Eva Edwards, who made the call during a webinar on lessons from implementing rice fortification initiatives in Africa, said Nigeria’s 20-year journey since mandatory food fortification had been a continuous learning experience, with challenges and wins.
According to her, there is need to continue to forge better partnerships among critical stakeholders and build an ecosystem for the fortification to thrive.
Edwards als explained there was also need to strengthen public sector effectiveness and improved private sector participation in rice fortification.
“Inadequate laboratory testing capacity, lack of quality data importation of unfortified, not adequately fortified products non-compliance with national fortification standards, porous borders, weak enforcement at point of entry and lack of adequate number of trained personnel, among others, remained the major challenges hindering implementation of food fortification in Nigeria,” she said.
The Country Director, GAIN, Dr. Michael Ojo, noted that rice fortification initiative in Nigeria would help address the challenges of malnutrition, especially among women and children.