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  A nice savoury meal can become a nightmare when contaminated with harmful pathogens, leading to foodborne illnesses. Food safety is paramount in preventing such occurrences and ensuring the well-being of consumers. Every year, millions suffer from foodborne illnesses caused by bacteria, viruses, parasites, and toxins present in improperly handled or prepared food. These illnesses can range from mild gastrointestinal discomfort to severe and even life-threatening conditions
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These illnesses impact individuals’ health and also carry economic consequences due to medical costs. Therefore, understanding food safety practices is essential to prevent these issues and promote public health. In this article, we will explore key principles of food safety and practical tips to minimize the risk of foodborne illnesses in everyday life.

Understanding Food-borne Illnesses

Foodborne illnesses are typically caused by pathogens that contaminate food during production, processing, or handling, posing serious health risks upon consumption.

Common Types of Foodborne Pathogens:

Some of the most common pathogens responsible for foodborne illnesses in Nigeria include:
  • Escherichia coli (E. coli)
  • Salmonella spp
  • Shigella spp
  • Clostridium spp
  • Campylobacter spp
  • Toxin-producing strains of Staphylococcus aureus

Symptoms and Health Risks

Foodborne illnesses often present with symptoms such as nausea, diarrhoea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and fever. In vulnerable populations such as young children, elderly individuals, pregnant women, and those with weakened immune systems, these symptoms can be more severe and may lead to dehydration or other complications.

Key Principles of Food Safety

  1. Cleanliness and Hygiene
It’s crucial to wash hands thoroughly with soap and water before handling food to prevent the spread of pathogens. Regular cleaning of kitchen utensils, cutting boards, countertops and other equipment helps eliminate bacteria and viruses.
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  1. Separation of Raw and Cooked Foods
To prevent cross-contamination, always use different cutting boards and utensils for raw meats, poultry, and seafood. After handling raw foods, make sure to wash your hands and clean surfaces thoroughly to stop harmful pathogens from spreading. When storing raw meats in the refrigerator, keep them separate from ready-to-eat foods to prevent any drips or spills that could cause contamination.
  1. Cooking and Temperature Control
Cooking food to safe internal temperatures is crucial because it effectively kills harmful bacteria and parasites that can cause foodborne illnesses, making it safe to consume.
  1. Safe Storage
Safe storage of food is crucial. Refrigerate perishables promptly or freeze. Label foods for freshness and organize storage to prevent cross-contamination. This ensures food safety and quality.

Government Policies and Consumer Education on Food Safety

In Nigeria, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) oversee food safety and the regulation of food products. For food intended for commercial sale in Nigeria, there are regulations covering hazard analysis, food labelling, food preparation, packaging, processing, transportation, distribution, storage, water sources, drainage facilities, sanitary facilities, waste disposal, and the quality of raw materials, among other aspects. These regulations include penalties for violations to ensure compliance and uphold food safety standards. Raising awareness of food safety regulations in Nigeria is important because many Nigerians are not familiar with these laws and what they mean for their health. We can educate people through public campaigns to explain food safety standards. At home, practising proper food handling can reduce the risk of getting sick from contaminated food. It’s also important for consumers to look out for “red flags” when eating out, such as poor hygiene or unsafe food practices. By spreading awareness and encouraging good habits, we can all enjoy safer and healthier meals in Nigeria.
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In conclusion, understanding food safety is vital for preventing foodborne illnesses in Nigeria. Key points include proper handwashing, cooking foods to safe temperatures, and being aware of food safety regulations. Let’s prioritize food safety by practising good hygiene, proper food handling, and staying informed about safe food practices to protect our health and well-being.
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This article was first published on 23rd April 2024


I am a passionate health writer. Recognizing the lack of comprehensive health knowledge among my non-medical peers, I took to health writing to provide scientifically sound and easily understandable health information.

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