Over 200,000 Nigerians Dies Annually Due To Food Poisoning:
Over 200,000 Nigerians Dies Annually Due To Food Poisoning:

The revelation at the gender and inclusion summit 2023 (GS-23), held recently in Abuja, that over 200,000 Nigerians die annually from food poisoning is troubling, stakeholders say.

Over 200,000 Nigerians Dies Annually Due To Food Poisoning:

Speaking at the event convened by the Policy Innovation Centre, PIC, of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group in Abuja, Apostle Michael Orokpo’s wife and social media influencer, Osenega Orokpo, shocked many when she revealed that there is high rate of food poisoning in Nigeria and other African countries due to unhealthy.

She attributed this to unsafe food preparation and preservation caused by poor processing and absence of robust and monitoring food systems in the country.

Stakeholders at the summit said many Nigerians were dying as a result of owing to unsafe and unscrupulous practices, such as the use of dangerous chemicals like sniper for storage and preservation of agricultural commodities, including grains (maize, beans).

They also identified other harmful practices to include the use of carbide to ripen fruits, tendering of meat with paracetamol by food vendors, which can result in liver or kidney failure, using formaldehyde to preserve fish, injecting poultry with hormones to conceal disease, harmful food colouring, among others.

Orokpo, who spoke on the topic: “Pathway out of Poverty: Closing Systematic Gender Gaps in Agricultural Productivity, Value Chain Pathways, and Entrepreneurial Opportunities,” stressed the need for resilient food systems to address the challenge of food poisoning in the country.

She added that Nigeria could address the challenge of food poisoning through such proactive interventions like advocacy.

She suggested that every food supply chain should have safety cautions in place to guard against food poisoning along the distribution channel, even as she underscored the need for women inclusion in the food value chain, as according to her, about 47 percent of farmers in the food chain were women.

“It is very important to establish food procedure because most of the people who provide food are smallholder farmers.

“That is where training comes in. Training model should be handed down all the way from the farm to the factory,” she said.

Earlier, the chairman of the NESG Policy and Innovation Centre, Mr. Udeme Ufot, said the summit was conceptualised as a platform for dialogue where critical stakeholders from diverse sectors would reflect on new evidence, and contextually relevant solutions to disparities in inclusivity in Nigeria.

He noted that by joining forces and leveraging the collective power of government, development partners, civil society, academia, and the private sector, the summit would foster collective commitment and focused action towards building a gender inclusive society.

Similarly, a director with the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC, Eva Edwards, said that food-borne diseases disproportionately affect the most vulnerable of the society- the infants, young children, pregnant women, the elderly and the immune-compromised people.

She disclosed that many farmers and business owners used agrochemicals such as snipers for storage and preservation of agricultural commodities such as grains, stressing that such practice presented negative health outcomes.

However, to tackle the menace, the NAFDAC Director General, DG, Prof Moji Adeyeye, recently launched a campaign against drug hawking and ripening of fruits in Lagos.

He disclosed that consumption of fruits that were ripened with harmful chemicals like calcium carbide may cause cancer, heart, kidney, and liver failures.

Represented by the director of chemical evaluation and research, Dr Leonard Omokpariola, the DG said the agency had commissioned a scientific study on the best approach to mitigating the health hazards posed by ripening fruits with carbide.

However, according to Jennifer Egbo, an expert in food science and nutrition, some of the factors that contribute to the ugly trend include improper processing, preservation, and service of food.

She told Newsmen that there were numerous ways through which foods, including fruits can be contaminated and when taken can cause serious problems including death.

On what should be done to arrest the ugly development, she said: “The way out is proper awareness/sensitisation and training. We must sensitise people about the enormity of the problem and we must train them on how to do things properly to avoid contaminating what they consume.”

A United States-based Nutritionist and Dietician, Chinonso Ezenwako corroborated Jennifer’s assertion and warned that unless the government takes more than passing interest in the way most of the foods that Nigerians consume are prepared, including the imported foods, there would be no end in sight to such ugly news.

She also maintained that those involved in food processing and preparation must be trained and retrained so as to reduce the occurrence of food poison.

Also speaking, a concerned Nigeria, Mr. Anthony Ugwuoke, decried the trend stressing that urgent decisive steps must be taken to arrest the trend.

“It’s terrible to think that so many people die of food poisoning every year. It’s important that we take steps to address this issue.

“One of the main causes of food poisoning is the use of harmful agrochemicals on crops.

“It’s critical that farmers and business owners are aware of the dangers of these chemicals and take appropriate measures to protect consumers. We need to work together to ensure that food is safe for everyone to eat.

“We should be careful about what we use on crops because using harmful products will cause damage or affect our health. We are the ones that consume the food, so we must ensure that farmers desist from applying harmful chemicals on food crops either for better yield or for preservation.

“Food vendors should also not apply harmful substances in preparing their menus, and all that. It is crucial that we act to solve this problem.”

Other concerned Nigerians also aired their views on the worrisome figure.

Among them is Dr. Pogu Bitrus who traced the genesis of the problem to farming techniques.

He lamented that the present generation of farmers have abandoned the traditional technique of farming to the modern technique, which according to him, contributes a great deal to what is today called food poisoning.

“Today, we use insecticides, herbicides and others, instead of practising our God-given organic system of food production. And some of the foreign foods, including the processed foods, have chemicals that, in the long run, affect our bodies,” he said in an interview with DAILY POST.

He also lamented that a lot of control measures that were very effective in those days were no longer effective nowadays.

According to him: ‘It shows that many things that we used to do in the past have been abandoned. Those of us, who were there in the 1960s, know that we used to have sanitation officers going around to ensure that everywhere was clean; to ensure that our water was clean.

“This day and age, we are consuming all sorts of things, including the one they call sachet water. Some of them are as dirty as whatever, and before long, you find that you have been poisoned with salmonella and you go and diagnose that you have typhoid.

“So, these are the problems we are facing because some people are dubious and they will go and package all sorts of things. The whole thing is so cumbersome because NAFDAC as a regulatory body doesn’t have the capacity to check on everything that is being done, including even drugs.

“People are fabricating chemicals that are dangerous and selling them to Nigerians as drugs. So, we have lots of things we eat, which are poisonous in themselves. Some are created by us because of greed.

“Some are because our farming techniques have changed and we now introduce to the food chain chemicals that are dangerous to the human body.

“And of course, our hygiene has depreciated. We no longer have people that check the way we live to ensure that we are living life that is hygienic and that we are eating and preparing our meals in hygienic ways.

“All these need to be looked at. We have abandoned so many things which we used to have before. We need to reintroduce some of these things so that we can save lives,” he stated.

In his contribution, Alhaji Yerima Shettima equally believes that those who are charged with the responsibility of ensuring quality standards about the foods and drinks Nigerians consume have gone to sleep.

“That is what we are saying that people who are put in sensitive areas must be up and doing.

“Food security is key and very important and any responsible government must champion it and look inward so that you don’t compromise people’s lives. It is inexplicable that over 200,000 Nigerians die annually from food poisoning and we think all is well; this is very abnormal?

“It means that at the level of those who are saddled with the responsibilities of ensuring quality assurance, like the NAFDAC, and others, are not doing their job. And to that extent, we must have a system that works by saying that anybody in such positions, who is not doing his job very well, should be fired.

“For instance, look at the NDLEA; it is a clear example of an agency that works. In the past, the agency appeared to have gone to bed, but with the coming of Major Gen Buba Marwa, retd, you can see what is happening and we can also feel it.

“Those are things we must encourage. Competence must take the centre stage so that things can be addressed. It is not normal for over 200,000 Nigerians to die yearly as a result of food poisoning; it is a bad omen and it doesn’t speak well of us as Nigerians,” he said.

Dr Uche Okenyi of the Hova’s Place Hospital, Festac, examining the common causes of food poisoning, said injecting certain bacteria viruses and toxins in the process of preparing and preserving foods is a common cause of diarrhoea and vomiting otherwise called poison.

“Contaminated food and water are common causes but at times, no specific cause is found,” he said.

He stated that the 200,000 figure could be an understatement, as he noted that over a million Nigerians are affected by food poisoning annually.

This he said, “could be attributed to both personal habit of individuals and the environmental management by the concerned authorities.

“Individuals who are careless about personal hygiene often fall victim. Poor waste disposal/management by individuals, corporate entities and the relevant government agencies is also a factor.

“Things like unhygienically prepared food or drinks, open defecation, defective soak-away/drainage channels, and poor management of dumpsites, are also factors.

“Food poisoning in most cases is mild and self limiting requiring proper hydration. In some cases, antiemetics and anti-diarrhoeals may be necessary, and at times, antibiotics.”

He also noted that the high number of deaths resulting from food poisoning is as a result of ignorance or poor awareness campaigns.

He said: “The high mortality rate is attributable to lack of education and awareness on the prompt and proper thing to do in such cases at an individual level, and secondly, to all equipped health facilities that are unable to manage severe cases.”

He stressed that as preventive measures, the government and even corporate organisations and well-to-do individuals should all engage in proper education and awareness creation and sensitisation on the poor personal hygiene and poor environmental management.

“The government has a big role to play in this. And finally, there should be more investment in healthcare, which will equip our health facilities to manage any degree of food poisoning.”

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