Covid-19 in Nigeria: what are the food safety implications?

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Covid-19 in Nigeria: what are the food safety implications?

Following the discovery of the first case of corona virus, and subsequent positive result in about forty (40) persons, it has become apparent that the priority of the government should be the containment of the virus and prevention of further spread in the country.

The focus on medical intervention to contain and prevent further spread of the current Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis is highly commendable. Many measures had already been put in place by the federal and state governments in readiness for the deadly COVID-19 even before the first case was reported in Nigeria on the 26 of February 2020.

How can we ensure that the medical community is not overwhelmed?

In other not to make the outbreak overwhelming for the medical community, all other sectors must put in place measures to prevent the spread of the disease. Giving that there are still many things unknown about the virus, food safety measures must be improved and enforced at all levels of the food production industry. Although the current infection is different from Ebola, measures used to contain the outbreak can be improved upon to control the present pandemic.

Does COVID -19 have implications for the food production industry?

The coronavirus is genetically similar to the SARS-CoV (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus) and is, therefore, transmissible from human to human and it can survive in human faecal matter. It can also be spread through aerosols. Therefore, it is important to improve food safety measures in our food processing plants, through the supply chain, in the homes, schools and places of worship. Although the 2019-nCoV is said to spread mainly through person-to-person contact, and not from food or water, food safety measures must be improved upon to control its spread. This is especially so as most of our food production operations are carried out by humans who are susceptible to this disease.

Is the consumption of wildlife risky?

Needless to say, the careless consumption of wildlife needs to be put under control. Although there are cultures that relish the consumption of wildlife in Nigeria, the reality is that a lot of outbreaks have been attributed to the consumption of this class of animals and we must put our taste buds to check if we must win the war against outbreaks which are related to the consumption of wildlife. Many people stopped the consumption of wildlife in the wake of Ebola and lots more with the recent outbreaks of Lassa fever. But sporadic and spontaneous stoppages will not help the populace. There must be a standard for the kind of animals that can be are consumed or offered for sale.

Are we at risk with imported foods and dietary supplements?

As a nation that gets a lot of what it consumes from China, and other countries, there is reason to be afraid of the possibility of contacting this virus through imported foods, drinks, snacks, and dietary supplements. However, according to the United States’s FDA, the outbreak is not expected to result in an increased public health risk for consumers from imported products. So far, there is no evidence to support the transmission of COVID-19 through imported goods and there have not been any case of COVID-19 associated with imported goods. Nevertheless, our product inspection strategies need to improve and be targeted towards the detection of possible life-threatening biological organisms.

What are the food safety measures we can use to control the spread of Covid-19?

The World Health Organization (WHO) has said that we are in a “window of opportunity” to stop the new coronavirus from becoming a broader global crisis, and that food safety is one area that people should be looking to.

This COVID-19 outbreak has strong implications for the food production industry. To prevent the spread of the disease, the WHO has suggested that food safety measures be followed by food handlers and the public:

Wash your hands frequently and properly,

Avoid consumption of raw or undercooked animal products,

Take on good food safety practices, such as never reusing the same chopping boards and knives that were used on raw meat.

And of course, it is better to eat at home than to eat at a restaurant.

If you must get your food from a restaurant, please, order take-out as we have been advised to stay away from public places.

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