The Nigerian national Agency for food control: forwards in food safety standards
Food Safety is defined as the assurance that the food will not cause harm to the consumer when it is prepared and/or eaten according to its intended use (FAO/WHO, 1997). Food safety issues arise from several factors such as poverty, street foods, improper agricultural practices, artisanal activities, poor hygiene at all stages of the food chain, lack of preventive controls in food processing operations, misuse of chemicals and additives, additives used above permitted levels, inappropriate storage and handling, microbiological contaminants, biological toxins, pesticide and veterinary residues, counterfeiting, and adulteration, amongst other factors (Omotayo and Denloye, 2002).
In Nigeria, bacterial food-borne diseases caused by species of Salmonella, Clostridium, Campylobacter and Escherichia are recognized of major public health concerns contributing to the morbidity and mortality rates. On the other side, the lack of or inadequate application of Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) and the abuse or misuse of agrochemicals by farmers during storage in Nigeria have had serious health effects on its population that still call for intervention. The inappropriate application of pesticides to stored products such as beans and grains to prevent insect infestation, leads to mycotoxins production such as aflatoxin, ochratoxins and fumonosins, and they are the mostly implicated mycotoxins in Nigeria (Wagacha and Muthomi, 2008). The lead poisoning in Zamfara state of Nigeria which caused the death of dozens of infants and children shows the poor attention given to toxic metals in food and water consumed in Northern Nigeria (Orisakwe et al., 2017). Similarly, improper use of food additives result in various ailments ranging from gastrointestinal disorders to carcinogenesis and death.
In addressing food safety in Nigeria, a good starting point would be for the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) to strengthen the existing framework and mandate. The enactment and implementation of food safety legislation should be based on scientific information provided by the National Food Risk Analysis Centre (NFRAC) Unit (domiciled in NAFDAC). NFRAC must find the best possible ways to leveraging resources to help local food systems with food safety: for instance, via the elaboration of national and international food standards, collation of national food safety data, collaboration with research institutes and academia with respect to food safety data generation and collation. Food safety research and training programs are invaluable for local food systems, and they require partnerships between local food entities and groups, universities, and state and federal governments.
The ‘Nutrition & food safety and wholesomeness’ NOODLES network is committed to bridging the international scientific gap between countries that have minimal scientific contact in the field of food safety, environmental health, and risk analysis. NOODLES works to boost global health by building models for the implementation of one health framework through the translation of scientific research to daily life, that is, science-based risk management and decision making. NOODLES has and will continue to play a role in food safety in Nigeria. In 2014, a research survey by NOODLES network was carried out to monitor the dumping of BPA baby bottles in order to get an overview of the most purchased, the most used sterilizing methods, feeding frequency, existing regulations and appreciate if level of infants exposure to BPA through baby bottles is of concern in Nigeria and Cameroun (Frazzoli et al., 2012; Pouokam et al., 2014). NOODLES currently seeks to identify specific interventions to improve health in pre, peri, post conception phases and protect newborns from increased risks of non-communicable diseases. NOODLES also sets out to investigate the use of farm animals as sentinel for environmental health and food safety in Nigeria. In order to build the capacity to increase food safety in Nigeria, NAFDAC, in addition to working closely with the public (Ministry of Health, Standards Organization of Nigeria, National Codex Committee, Ministry of Agriculture, etc.) and private (Industry, Professional bodies, Universities and Research Institutes, Consumer Associations, and Non-governmental Organizations such as NOODLES) sectors, must also ensure that the national food safety system is strengthened, updated and effectively managed to impact more positively on the standard of living of consumers and the economy.
FAO/WHO, (1997). Codex Alimentarius Food Hygiene Basic Texts. Joint FAO/Who Food Standards Programme, Codex Alimentarius Commission. Pub. # M-83.
Frazzoli, C., Orisakwe, O.E., Ajaezi, G.C., Pouokam, G. B., Mantovani, A. Dumping of Banned Baby Bottles from Advanced Economies: An Overlooked Hazard for African Infants? In: Frazzoli, C., Asongalem, E.A. and Orisakwe, O.E. (Eds.). 2012, 198 p. Rapporti ISTISAN 12/49. [http://www.iss.it/publ/rapp/cont.php?id=2674&lang=1&tipo=5&anno=2012]
Omotayo, R.K. And Denloye, S.A. (2002) The Nigerian Experience on Food Safety Regulations. FAO/WHO Global Forum on Food Safety Regulators, Marakesh, Morroco.
Orisakwe, O.E., Oladipo, O.O., Ajaezi, G.C. and Udowelle, N.A., (2017). Horizontal and Vertical Distribution of Heavy Metals in Farm Produce and Livestock around Lead-Contaminated Goldmine in Dareta and Abare, Zamfara State, Northern Nigeria. Journal of environmental and public health. Epub 2017 May 2.PMID:28539940
Pouokam, G. B., Ajaezi, G.C., Mantovani, A., Orisakwe, O.E., Frazolli, C., (2014). Use of Bisphenol A-containing baby bottles in Cameroon and Nigeria and possible risk management and mitigation measures: community as milestone for prevention. Science of the Total Environment, doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2014.02.026.
Wagacha, J.M., Muthomi, J.W., (2008). Mycotoxin Problem in Africa: Current Status, Implications to Food Safety and Health and Possible Management Strategies. International Journal of Food Microbiology 124, 1–12.
Godwin Chukwuebuka Ajaezi and Orish Ebere Orisakwe