No doubt, many people do not seem to know what it takes to have food safety in the country. Not only that, the quality of agricultural produce has to be of high standards, not only to meet international requirements but also to provide needed nutritional value, and earn reasonable income for farmers. This crucial information was revealed by a panel of discussants while looking at the issues. For a Professor of Food Microbiology and Food Safety, Department of Hospitality and Tourism Management, College of Food Science and Human Ecology (COLFHEC), Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB), Ogun State, Prof. Adebukunola Omemu, food could be contaminated through the food chain or systems such as processing, distribution, and consumption.
To avoid this, she suggested that government agencies in charge of food safety such as the National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), ministries of health at the federal and state levels, health and sanitary inspectors at the local government level, to enforce the policies on food safety and regulate them, to curb the incidence of food contamination. Prof. Omemu, who is also the Dean of Student Affairs at FUNAAB said there was the need to provide facilities such as pipe-borne water and toilets in the market places for proper hygiene. Speaking about other ways that food safety was being compromised, she explained them to include ignorance on the part of some farmers or middlemen while applying harmful pesticides on foodstuffs like beans to keep away weevils; the wrapping of food items with old and contaminated copies of newspapers.
The Don added that it was an unwholesome practice to put out soft drinks, bottled water, or other beverages in the sun as this could lead to such being contaminated while she also frowned at transporting frozen foods in a hot van, stating that this could compromise their safety as their temperatures could be affected negatively. Prof. Omemu charged every Nigerian to be an ambassador in observing personal hygiene and preaching the gospel of food safety in their residences, marketplaces, and schools, among others. In the same vein, an expert in oil production and processing has given certain signs that buyers of palm oil should watch out for while purchasing the ingredient in the market.
The farmer, who is the Head of Oil Palm Processing Unit, Directorate of University Farms (DUFARMS) of FUNAAB, Mr. Noble Okoro, disclosed that adulterated palm oil would have an unusual taste, would be foaming, smelly, and would be reddish, among others, warning of the dire health consequences for anyone, who consumes such as palm oil. He said, “When the palm fruits are ripe enough, a farmer could bring down the bunches. They will be allowed to stay for about three to four days on the ground. Afterward, the seeds would be plucked from the bunches and they would later be loaded into the steam boiler or drum for cooking (processing). After it has been well-cooked, then it would move to presser to get the palm oil out. You don’t begin to load them into kegs immediately, you allow them to cool and when the moisture is out. You can begin to load them into kegs or other containers. The palm oil kegs or drums must not be on the ground, they must be put on a platform under the room temperature”. Mr. Okoro advised those, who want to make money in the palm oil business and reap a bounty dividends, to invest in large hectares of palm tree plantation, acquire the necessary machinery, and know when and how to produce.
On the commercial value of farm produce, it has been observed that any farmer with access to a high-yielding variety of maize seedling and use of mechanised mode of farming on 50 to 100 hectares of land, is already on his/her way to becoming an exporter of maize grains to other countries. An Agricultural Officer in DUFARMS of the University, Mr. Jimoh Mubaraq has explained that with the right yield of maize seedling, availability of tractors and machinery, complemented with the right use of fertilisers and herbicides, maize farmers could produce enough maize for both local consumption and the export market.
Mr. Mubaraq added that in addition to these, maize farmers should keep rodents, armyworms, and insects away by clearing the bushes and shrubs, noting that there are more than 10 varieties of maize with different gestation periods for whatever variety a farmer chooses. Mr. Mubaraq explained further that due to current climate change, maize farmers preferred those with shorter gestation periods of 60 and 75 days, “Which are sold fresh, as either boiled or roasted by retailers at roadsides”, adding that maize, apart from being the second-largest grains being consumed after rice, “Is also used in the production of corn flakes, flour mill, and oil extracts”. In conclusion, it can be stated that what it takes to have hygienic and profitable food produce is a combination of safety, quality control, and diligence for all to know about and really put into practice.