Nigeria is attempting to improve food safety with a range of training materials.

The Federal Ministry of Health launched a unified food safety training manual for capacity building of food vendors, handlers, manufacturers and personnel in the food supply chain in the country.

The aim is to address gaps and strengthen the food safety system at the federal, state and local government area levels, to develop a safe and reliable food supply chain from farm-to-table and prevent foodborne illness.

Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, said: “Food safety and hygiene is critical for achieving primary health care as it constitutes one of the major pillars of disease prevention and health promotion.”

Ehanire added the food safety training manual was developed by stakeholders in Nigeria and would be of value in training farmers, food processors, marketers, and vendors on the need to ensure that food sold, marketed, and consumed meets national and international standards.

Training benefits
Foodborne diseases are caused by contamination of food and occur at any stage of the farm-to-fork chain. They can result from environmental contamination including pollution in water, soil or air, as well as unsafe food storage and processing.

WHO figures published in 2015 found foodborne hazards are responsible for 137,000 deaths and 91 million illnesses in Africa every year.

“The launching of the manuals is quite timely, given that the weaknesses and vulnerabilities in food production and control systems highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Edwin Isotu Edeh, national consultant for public health and environment, speaking on behalf of the World Health Organization (WHO) Nigeria country representative.

“Taking into account the global burden of foodborne diseases, which affect individuals of all ages, in particular children under 5 and persons living in developing nations, it becomes imperative to equip food handlers and service providers along the food supply chain with essential food safety knowledge and skills to promote food hygiene and prevent food related hazards at critical control points.”

WHO is working with the federal and state ministries of health and other regulatory agencies to advocate for integrating food safety into national policies and programs. The agency is also supporting Nigeria to ensure the manuals are disseminated across the nation and used to train food handlers at all levels.

FAO and Korea partner on AMR
Meanwhile, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Republic of Korea are to work together on foodborne antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

The Republic of Korea, through its Ministry of Food and Drug Safety (MFDS), will provide $10 million to help implement and monitor Codex Alimentarius food standards to contain and reduce AMR. The first project will focus on using Codex standards on foodborne AMR in Cambodia, Mongolia, Pakistan, Nepal, Bolivia and Colombia.

Beth Bechdol, FAO deputy director general, said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us how important it is to boost international food safety standards to ensure our food keeps traveling safely across borders, safeguarding food and nutritional security.”

Jinseok Kim, vice minister of the MFDS, said global collaboration was needed to overcome difficulties related to the pandemic.

“It is our responsibility to support other countries, and the most effective way to do this is through FAO, the key player in food safety in the UN. It is essential to continue to move forward, and as of today Korea would like to play a leading role in world food safety,” Kim said.

Improved monitoring of AMR in agri-food systems can provide early warning of emerging threats and insight for potential control measures.

Antimicrobial resistant microorganisms claim the lives of about 700,000 people each year — a number that continues to grow, said Jeffrey LeJeune, FAO food safety officer.

“If we fail to act, food production will decline and it is estimated that by the year 2050, antimicrobial resistant infections will kill more than 10 million people each year. These impacts will be felt the most in low and middle-income countries of the world where food insecurity is already problematic and health care systems are the weakest,” he said.

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