The typical Nigerian cuisine can therefore be joyous one minute, and threatening the next. Pregnant women, for instance, face the risk of toxins silently infiltrating their unborn babies via contaminants in our foods.
The Nigerian food system is rated as one of the most unsafe and neglected public health concerns. The World Health Organisation, WHO, describes microbial and chemical poisoning of our food as huge.
A recent study by the University of Ibadan found that over 50 per cent of pregnant women in some rural areas had detectable levels of pesticides in their blood. Also, the Environmental Rights Action, ERA, and the Centre for Science and Environment, CSE, conducted research and advocacy on environmental health issues in Nigeria, and their reports reflect the adverse effects of chemical poisoning cases and related health impacts.
Improper food handling is a breeding ground for hazardous bacteria like Salmonella and E. coli. But beyond the realm of microbes, a different kind of threat lurks – chemical contamination.
Chemical pollution is an enemy that finds its way into the food chain through pesticide residue on produce. Due to industrial recklessness, chemical pollutants enter the food chain like covert saboteurs. Heavy metals such as lead, chromium and arsenic, from industrial activities can seep into the soil and water, entering the food chain and affecting the kidneys, liver and other organs.
The careless and uncontrolled use of pesticides is perhaps the biggest threat. Pesticide residues from agricultural practices can permanently remain on fruits and vegetables, potentially impacting the nervous and endocrine systems.
The numerous toxins in grains pose serious cancer risks. These unseen killers prey on organs and interfere with the delicate balance of the immune system.
Food poisoning is a public health concern that demands immediate and collective action. It is an old enemy that requires renewed vigour to eradicate.
The pertinent questions are: Who checks the roasted groundnuts and roasted corns for the presence of chemicals like aflatoxins in Nigeria? Who measures pesticide residues and heavy metals content in fruits, vegetables, grains and fish? Hello NAFDAC.
Who monitors waste disposal from industries and mining activities to prevent contamination of food chains? Who controls household chemical exposure? Who monitors risk of household chemical exposure? The answers are blowing in the wind. The government owes the people the responsibility of building a safer food system. It should begin with educating farmers on safe agricultural practices, promoting organic farming methods, and ensuring proper storage and transportation. Raising public awareness is also critical, and stricter food safety rules must be introduced and implemented.
Nigeria’s journey towards a safe and healthy food system necessitates community action. Farmers, consumers, lawmakers, healthcare experts, all have a role to play. By working together, there can be a guarantee that every food contains sustenance rather than danger.
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