BusinessDay

World Food Day and matters arising

It is a common saying that, you are what you eat. This may probably explain why the United Nations led over 150 nations to set aside October 16 of every year to celebrate Food, now known as the World Food Day, with the target to ‘end hunger by 2030.’ This year’s theme is ‘Leave NO ONE behind.’

In the face of a looming global food crisis, we need to harness the power of solidarity and collective momentum to build a better future where everyone has regular access to enough nutritious food,” FAO director-general QU Dongyu said to mark this year’s celebration.

To further show the importance of food, in 2018, the United Nations General Assembly established World Food Safety Day, to be marked every June 7, to create awareness about food safety so as to avoid, diagnose, and control food-borne risks, and thus promote human health.

Two of the 17 key UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), boosting consumer health and well-being and ending hunger by 2030, need safe food. It could be recalled that this year’s World Food Safety Day theme was: “Safer food, better health.” One of the most important determinants of good health is the availability of safe food.

Food, generally, is a material made up mostly of protein, carbohydrates, fat, and other nutrients used in humans and animals’ bodies. It is a crucial resource that is used to fuel development and essential operations.

Foods and its safety, as we consume them, are essential not only for our body but also for the development of the economy. This is because, unsafe food when consumed has significant consequences on health and socio-economic development.

Moreover, unsafe foods cause various diseases and contribute to other health problems. These include: stunted growth and development, micronutrient deficiencies, non-communicable and infectious diseases as well as mental illness.

Lack of food also contributes to school and work-place absenteeism, reducing productivity and growth. Eating contaminated food also results in food-borne diseases. Contamination and food poisoning are caused in large part by poor food storage and preservation procedures.

Food contamination can occur anywhere, from farms to forks and all points in between, due to sheer carelessness, ignorance, or malicious acts.

Also, residues of chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides have been found in considerable concentrations in some crops thus resulting in pollution (a major reason Nigerian crops are rejected in global markets).

Furthermore, food production is likely to be impacted by climate change. Other variables, such as regulatory failures, food pricing, product choice, lack of consumer awareness, and educational and cultural influences, could contribute to Nigeria’s current food production problems.

Often, regulators are known to focus on large producers, whereas small and artisanal food processors, who produce most of the population’s foods consumed by a considerable portion, are overlooked.

Globalization has resulted in an increasingly complicated and longer global food chain as consumers want a larger variety of foods. Also, the number of individuals buying and eating food produced in public locations has risen due to urbanization and changing consumer preferences. Globalization and active food exchange among countries, therefore ensure that food-borne outbreaks are more significant.

Read also: Celebrating the World Food Day

According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly one out of every six Americans (or 48 million people) becomes sick, 128,000 people are hospitalized, and 3,000 die from food-borne illnesses yearly.

Food-borne diseases are Africa’s leading cause of death and sickness, with an estimated 137,000 deaths and 91 million infections per year. At the same time, the estimate by the World Health Organization shows that one in ten dies of food poisoning every year, accumulating the total death in a year to 420,000 worldwide.

Food-borne disease is a global public health hazard, according to the WHO. The highest incidence and death rates among children under five are seen in the African and South-East Asian regions.

Children under the age of 5, often suffer more from the consequences of food poisoning resulting in the death of approximately 40 percent of that age group.

Food and its safety and food-borne disease control legislation exist in every country, although the degree of control varies, depending on economic situations. Despite these rules, however, the frequency of food-borne diseases continues to rise. This is because most food firms and customers have purposefully or accidentally disregarded food and its safety measures.

Meanwhile, it is possible to avoid food poisoning by ensuring that the food we consume has been adequately processed. We should also avoid eating items that have been exposed for an extended period.

As individuals, intermediaries, farmers, and even government; from farm to table, we all have a part to play in ensuring that the food we eat is safe and does not hurt our health.

To prevent food poison at home, hands, utensils, and food surfaces should be adequately washed regularly, separating raw foods from ready-to-eat foods and cooking foods to a safe temperature.

Also, refrigeration of perishable foods promptly, safe defrosting of food items, and proper disposal of food items whenever doubt arises. Farmers should also ensure that recommended preservatives are used on raw food sites to avoid contamination of such food.

Above all, government policy and regulations should be enforced at all levels to ensure that consumers consume food safe enough to enhance the body.

The importance of these measures cannot be over-emphasized. For such indeed, is the centrality of food to life and living in Nigeria or anywhere in the world.