Food safety tied to good health, food handlers told

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Food safety is crucial to good health Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) Coordinator Dr Colin James told some 30 participants at the opening of a two-day training programme held Wednesday at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) Timehri on the East Bank Demerara. The two-day training which was organised by the Veterinary Public Health (VPH) Department of the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) attracted the participants from local food- manufacturing sector who vend at the CJIA. They were coursed as a part of a menu of measures to qualify for receiving their Food Handlers Identification Cards and Certificate. Addressing participants, James said that the negative impact of unsafe food and food-borne diseases is high and growing around the world and is being blamed for some 80 per cent of deaths globally.

“The negative impact of unsafe food is enormous and it also creates a vicious cycle of disease and malnutrition, particularly affecting infants, young children, elderly and the sick,” James said. While unsafe food and food-borne diseases constitute a significant public health problem, food diseases impede socio economic development by straining health care systems and harming national economies, tourism and trade. “Food safety incidents, or plant and animal trans-boundary disease outbreaks have had negative impacts on public health, on trade, on peoples’ livelihood and on countries’ economies over the years,” the EOC executive said.

The EOC Coordinator confirmed that a large proportion of ready-to-eat foods is being sold by informal sector operators especially street vendors who offer it at low prices and provide essential services to workers, shoppers, travellers, school children and low-income earners. He added that the consumption of these foods is common in many countries especially in places where urbanisation is occurring at a rapid pace.  “The people who depend on such foods are often more interested in its convenience than in issues of safety, quality and hygiene,” James emphasised.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), access to sufficient amounts of safe and nutritious food is central to sustaining life and promotion of good health. Unsafe food containing harmful bacterial viruses, parasites and other chemical substances are implicated in over 200 diseases ranging from diarrhoea to cancers. WHO estimates that every year, food and water-borne diarrhoeal diseases kill about 2.2 million people, 1.9 million or 86 percent, are children. James told that participants that in responding to the health challenges related to food safety, the MoPH strives to support food vendors to ensure that the foods supplied are safe and nutritious.

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