FOOD POISONING AND FARMERS EDUCATION
According to the food and Agriculture organization, the average
man requires a minimum 1,800 K cal energy per day to function effectively, it
goes without saying the strategic importance of farmers and the food we produce
for man’s continual existence, livelihood, and productivity. The same food
without which man can survive can constitute a source of health hazard in a
concept popularly known as food poisoning. Food poisoning also known as food borne
illness is caused by eating contaminated food. This is usually as result of
foods coming in contact or exposed to infectious organisms such as bacteria,
viruses and parasites or theses organism’s toxins. These organisms are causative agents of over
200 diseases associated with food poisoning ranging from diarrhea to cancers.
Nutrition is the consumption of safe healthy and balanced
food as That is to say, it is not enough to eat foods to stock up the stomach,
but food consumed must be whole, safe, balanced and healthy, as foods can
affect the overall well-being, health, and individuals productivity. Annually
food poisoning is responsible for 420,000 deaths and 1 in every 10 people in
the world fall ill after eating contaminated food according to a world health
organization report. Food poisoning is prevalent in under aged children of 5
years and below making up 40 % of the total occurrence.
The question begging for answer is how can food produced
naturally become a source of hazard/food poisoning to unsuspecting consumers?
There are several channels across the food production stages
where food contamination can occur. Food contamination occur majorly on farms,
during the planting operation phase, post-harvest phase, storage phase, distribution
phase, cooking/consumption phase
There are several ways by which foods become contaminated
and poisoned and in large part due to certain unwholesome and bad practices of
farmers and consumers alike. Farmers in
this case refers to everyone in the agricultural and food production chain including
the middle men.
Field – cultivated food crops growing on field can become
contaminated when there is indiscriminate application of chemicals.(pesticides,
herbicides, fertilizers) Indiscriminate pesticide application constitutes using
banned substance, using excess chemicals, wrong use of chemicals, use of
expired chemicals. Vegetable food crops are mostly affected in this category as
most of these chemicals makes contacts with the foliar (leaves) of the crops
which is also the part mostly consumed by man. Also the use of uncured manure
on food crops can lead to contamination.
Storage – food can become contaminated or poisoned while in
storage due to some conditions. Top on the list is poor storage facilities,
poor storage conditions, and wrong use of ripening substance. These conditions
can favor harmful biological processes which leads to the production of toxins
Packaging/Transit – Bad Food packaging and transportation
practices such as exposing produce to dust and other harmful substance, packing
food with materials which are not food safe, packing foods with containers
previously used for chemicals, transporting food items in dirty trucks,
transporting food with products unfit for human consumption can lead to increase
in the chances of food contamination.
Market – Due to the structure of most commodity market in
Nigeria, food items are often displayed openly and carelessly increasing the
chances of food contamination by disease vectors, atmospheric pollutants such
as poly-chlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).
The effects of food poisoning is usually life threatening
and in most cases causes irreversible damages to body organs and in severe
cases death. Common symptoms includes diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pains,
dizziness, headache, fever.
Food poisoning poses a serious threat to global health and
importantly the realization of the sustainable development goals of Zero
hunger, water and sanitation. Due to high level of illiteracy among farmers in
SSA and specifically Nigeria, it is pertinent that to combat this situation a
key policy thrust that can be embarked by all stakeholders across board is the
advocacy of comprehensive farmers and consumers education. This will include the advocacy for the
adoption of Good Agricultural Practices by farmers, and also enlightening them
on the importance of such. By catalyzing farmers knowledge on safe production
processes, agriculture best practices and food contamination causes and
effects, there will be a drastic reduction in the occurrence of food poisoning and the health hazards associated with it.