Food safety level hinges on farm mechanization, gradual awareness

11Jun 2020
The Guardian
Food safety level hinges on farm mechanization, gradual awareness

ACTIVISTS around the world were on Sunday, June 7 marking the World Food Safety Day, which an online write up says it is a day that reminds people of the need to have safer and healthy food to have a disease-free life.

This day is also an opportunity to promote awareness about how to keep our food supply safe, a theme that is relevant both at household level and at the level of society. Food safety is a problem that has pernicious effects in much of society, as the food we take is healthy more by accident than by design, in the sense of lack of assurance about environmental precautions, technically as sanitary issues.

The reason sanitary surroundings of the food we take remain poor and in many cases cause diseases that can even be life threatening like the spasmodic cholera epidemics that come up with less frequency over the past few decades. At the time of independence the cholera burden started to shift from Asia to Africa, as the growth trajectory was sharper and more effective in Asia than Africa. At present most of the world burden for food safety diseases is likely to be borne by Africa, as our food storage, preparation or delivery methods to the table are still questionable, with variations in threats from grains, vegetables, fruits, meat.

Surprisingly one effect of the coronavirus pandemic is to cultivate habits of washing hands with soap at regular intervals. It is a habit that many people have difficulties in cultivating even when taking their meals, satisfied with washing hands or just one hand, or strictly speaking, fingers of one hand, to take a meal, which obviously invites trouble. These habits are not likely to linger on for long as many of us are now taking to brushing aside the coronavirus threat, so ‘business as usual’ will continue with unsafe food taking environments and lack of a checking mechanism at the social or local government level about this.

For one thing, it can’t be said that those who prepare and deliver food to customers – or at homesteads – in rather unsafe environments are totally unaware that this isn’t the best way to do things. All safety improvements have their costing element, in which case the trade off relates to market mechanisms, if the customers will accept what is delivered or the manner in which it is delivered. Usually each environment of food preparation and delivery, or the taking of fruits and vegetables, meat or its accessories, had its ground rules fixed by competition and the price mechanism, so clean supermarket fruits will cost higher.

A lot in this situation is gradually changing with farm sector improvement, though crying gaps can be seen in that direction as well, for instance in efforts to eradicate aflatoxins from grains like maize, groundnuts and others. Less evident as to what is to be done is to tame the growth of microbial organisms in vegetables, with quite a number of them consumed raw and often causing mild diseases for that reason. Some fruits for instance avocado, when it is rough on the surface and marketed directly from the farm without any prior mechanized washing as with supermarket supplies, is wash resistant Typhoid can result as washing wasn’t thorough enough, a situation sorted out with gradual farm mechanization and processing of most marketed vegetables and fruits.

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