Much ado about what we eat, by Adewale Kupoluyi

Food is life. Without food, good food for that matter, man’s existence becomes critical. The validity of this point arose during a recent discourse and consciousness on the importance of food safety, which is worth sharing with readers, as food scientists and researchers have stressed the need to look beyond food security and focus more on safety. This call was made during an international conference on food health at the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB), Ogun state.
According to a don, Professor Folake Henshaw of the College of Food Science and Human Ecology (COLFHEC) in the University, the conference was organised to create a platform in the Sub-Saharan Africa, where participants can exchange ideas and share knowledge on proven strategies that would catalyse actions and policies for improved food, nutrition, security, health and the total well-being of man. According to her, the adoption of the world agenda on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (2016 – 2030), had given a roadmap for individual nations to follow in the next few years.
Charging scientists and experts in all fields of endeavours to continue to target solving problems and proffer solutions to have local impacts, Professor Henshaw, a former Dean of COLFHEC, stated that if not speedily addressed, local problems could lead to global challenges. Meanwhile, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Development) and immediate past Dean of COLFHEC, Professor Lateef Sanni, stated that the conference was designed to establish an international linkage such that it would hold once in three years, to brainstorm, share experiences and show the way for safer and better quality of food for the nation.
The Coordinator, ‘Safety Enhancement of Edible Products, Legislation, Analysis and Management (SELAMAT)’, Dr. Hans Marvin, observed that both programmes were put in place and funded through the European Union by establishing a network with the specific aim that it would become sustainable after four years. He highlighted the objectives of SELAMAT to include bringing together stakeholders such as the academia, government, regulators and industry from Europe and Asia in a network to share knowledge, expertise, methodology, best practices and policy developments related to food production.
Dr. Marvin noted that the essence of the network was to promote food safety, quality and associated issues such as food security, climate change and new technology developments, which could lead to scientific partnerships involving Asian food industries in a concerted effort towards assured, safer and more sustainable production systems. A resource person at the occasion, Dr. Dahiru Adamu, emphasised the importance of food safety, which he said involved proper handling, storing and preparation to prevent infection and food contaminants.
He also encouraged the government to intensify and sustain its current fight against corruption, especially, in the agricultural and food sector in order to enhance innovations and ensure food security in Nigeria; stressing the need for government to put in place, clear performance measurement standards to appraise government policy outcomes especially in the agricultural and food sector; and to ensure high level foundry and technological input to aid sustainable upgrading of Nigeria’s local food products into the global market.
The Economic and Trade Adviser, Embassy of the Kingdom of The Netherlands, Mrs. Sonia Odije-Fajusigbe, noted that the conference was coming at a time when agriculture was being considered as the green alternative to diversify the Nigerian economy and promoting food security. Mrs. Odije-Fajusigbe also pointed out that food was a basic necessity of life as it is not only a biological need but also a global socio-economic and political commodity. Explaining further, she said that food safety was intricately linked to sustainable development, especially, in relation to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
These goals, she noted, recognised the inter-linkages with supporting sustainable agriculture, empowering small-holder farmers, food and nutrition, security, climate change, public health and well-being, gender equality and other issues addressed within the set of 17 SDGs and the post-agenda of the SDGs. The Economic and Trade Adviser stated that food safety featured prominently to promote health and the wellbeing of the general public. Hence, the responsibility lies on everyone, from producers to consumers. She noted that the success of the Dutch agribusiness model was built on the concept of the ‘golden triangle’ in which private companies, knowledge organisations and the government play active roles in innovation, research and development.
Presentations made at the plenary session of the conference include: ‘Food and Nutrition in Africa, Present Situation and Concerns’; ‘Innovative Approaches in Public Health and Well-being’; ‘Emerging Issues in Right of Right of Child, Gender and family Livelihood’; and ‘Impact of Climate Change on Food Safety’. No doubt, the lessons learnt at the occasion have raised the awareness on the need to attach importance to food safety as much as food security as well as the role expected to be played by relevant stakeholders in the food business. It is only hoped that the necessary follow-up actions would be taken such that the parley would not amount to a mere talk-shop. This should not be, going by what food means to all in every ramification. Afterall, food is life!

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