The Federal Ministry of Health has advised Nigerians to maintain adequate personal hygiene at all times to avoid food poisoning.
The National Coordinator, National Food Safety Management Committee (NFSMC), Federal Ministry of Health, Mr Fubara Chuku, gave this advice during a sensitisation campaign to food handlers at Karu Abattoir, near Abuja, recently.
Mr Chuku stressed that there was need to wash hands regularly especially after playing with animals, using the bathroom, touching a cut or open sore, sneezing, blowing of nose and coughing. He also informed that there were some food toxins that could not be killed by just cooking the food, as such, “Nigerians must be extremely careful of what they eat.”
He noted that the committee’s visit was part of its move to ensure that Abattoir which is a very special section in meat processing, meets the standard procedure as practiced globally.
Mr. Chuku urged butchers to ensure that the structure was used under a good hygienic condition, adding that proper hygiene was significant following cases of diseases associated with meat processing. ‘’Food can be contaminated at any stage, this is why we must buy food that has been safely processed and we must handle it with care,’’ he maintained.
In her remarks, the Country Officer, Partnership for Aflatoxin Control in Africa (PACA), Mrs Stella Denloye, said that long term chronic exposure to aflatoxin(natural poison produced when certain mould species grow in foods) consumption could result in liver cancer, immune suppression, stunting in children. .
She also added that exposure to high levels of Aflatoxin could be fatal and aflatoxins could contribute up to 30 per cent of all liver cancer globally with 40 per cent occurring in Africa. She warned that food could get contaminated during pre-harvest, harvesting, handling, storage, processing and transport stages of the chain, if conditions were unfavourable..
The NFSMC Consultant, Mr. John Tehinse regretted that Abattoirs in Nigeria did not meet the minimum operating standards to guarantee food safety, despite being a key sector in the meat process chain, as the journey of the meat eaten by humans begins from Abattoir.
“We have come to a particular sector that is key in the area of food safety, which is meat. Every one of us eats meat and the journey of the meat we eat starts from here. If the meat is unsafe there is nothing the housewife can do to it, there is nothing anybody can do to it’’ he stressed.
Mr. Tehinse, further appealed to the management of abattoirs in Nigeria to desist from using tyres and other forms of rubbers to burn the Cow skin popularly referred to as ‘Pomu’, saying, ‘’it causes cancer.’’
In his welcome address, a Vet Doctor, at the Abattoir, Dr. Augustine Elah, emphasized that some of the challenges faced at the abattoir were: insecurity, unhealthy environment and butcher’s illiteracy, amongst others.
“When the meat we slaughter is unsafe, every other thing we do afterwards is unsafe because some of the organisms that will grow in an unsafe meat have the tendency of forming toxins. Once the toxins have started developing, long cooking time is ineffective. We are appealing to relevant authorities to join hands together to ensure food safety in this facility.”