Feature Article of Sunday, 14 October 2012

Columnist: Dun-Dery, Elvis

Food Hygiene And Safety - The Most Neglected In Ghana

For decades and through various evolutions man has always made efforts to avoid diseases and find ways to cure existing ones in order to improve and prolong life. Various diseases have led to the loss of human life irrespective of age. Diseases especially those caused by our daily intakes and activities such as food and hygiene continues to be a threat to human health and life with much emphasis being placed on curative care instead of preventive care through simple precautions of hygiene in our daily activities. It is obvious and globally acclaimed that unhygienic food and other forms of contamination of our daily consumables have led to the death of millions of people throughout the world, especially in Africa where lack of education, poverty, poor public health policies, lack of qualified personnel, poor financing health system among other reasons have left Africa and for that matter Ghana at the mercy of every outbreak from unhygienic food. There should therefore be a paradigm shift from looking for food diseases to cure, to what the diseases are and how they are caused.
Globally speaking, it is accepted and noticed that contaminated food and water causes serious health hazards to human and even animal life. It is therefore not suppressing that diseases such as cholera, diarrhea, typhoid, hepatitis, etc. exist and are of great concern to public health professionals especially in West Africa where access to quality education on hygiene is merely a dream, especially for food vendors. Unclean, insufficiently or inadequately cleaned cooking equipment have been identified as a source of bacterial contamination in processed food. Containers, pumps or tanks used for holding or transporting unprocessed raw materials, have occasionally been used for processed products without any cleaning and disinfection. It is therefore necessary that equipment in the processing establishment, coming in contact with food, be constructed in such a way as to ensure adequate cleaning, disinfection and proper maintenance to avoid the contamination. Transfer of microorganisms by personnel particularly from hands, is of vital importance. During handling and preparation, bacteria are transferred from contaminated hands of food workers to food and subsequently to other surfaces. Low infectious doses of organisms such as Shigella and pathogenic Escherichia coli have been linked to hands as a source of contamination. Poor hygiene, particularly deficient or absence of hand washing has been identified as the causative mode of transmission.
Side way chops bars and other food vendors undoubtedly are one of if not the main source of contaminated food. In Ghana it is not uncommon to notice that most health centers are filled with patients of various ages suffering from different food related diseases, contaminated or unhygienic food can lead to various complications and diseases. To date, only limited research has explored the effect of restaurant safety and hygiene standard on consumer purchase intention. Despite the significant role of perceived risk in determining consumer purchase decision, limited study has tested the effect of food vendors on food contamination and their level of knowledge on food hygiene as well as its safety. On top of that, theoretical model in understanding how food safety is compromised by both vendors and purchasers in the context of eating out was not reported in literature. Hence, this research is an empirical endeavor to build a framework that provides a theoretical based knowledge in understanding the influence of restaurant food safety and hygiene quality on consumers as well as the knowledge level of vendors on food hygiene. Beware of what you take in as food; your life is reduced by it.

By: Dun-Dery Elvis junior
Catholic University College of Ghana (Faculty of Public Health)