Federal Government has approved a new advisory for food businesses, which spells out safe food practices during the COVID – 19 pandemic.
Government said the purpose of the advisory was to bring up possible measures to guide what food establishments and food retail markets have to put in place to ensure the integrity of the food supply chain in the country.
Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, gave the approval to the document, which spells out the new advisory at the Ministry’s headquarters in Abuja, saying the advisory would ensure public safety.
According to him, to ensure food hygiene and prevent COVID – 19 in food businesses, established food businesses were expected to have some form of food safety management systems in place, and good manufacturing practice to manage food safety hazards and risks.
A statement by the Assistant Chief Information Officer, Brendan Nwokike Brendan, on behalf of the Director (Information, Media and Public Relations) in the Ministry of Health, Olujimi Oyetomi, said Ehanire agreed with the World Health Organisation that it was highly unlikely that people can contract COVID – 19 from food and food packaging.
He said that because SARS COV-2 virus is transmitted through respiratory droplets that are too heavy to remain in air, they may land on openly displayed foods at open markets (neighborhood open markets) to go on to affect persons who may not take much care before consumption.
The minister said that displayed foods at open markets (neighborhood open markets) are therefore a source of concern for most people, even though there is currently no evidence of transmission of SARS COV-2 virus associated with food in open markets.
He, therefore, advised strongly that consumers were required to wash fruits and vegetables with potable water and ensure good personal and respiratory hygiene around open food items.
The Minister said, “To ensure food hygiene and prevent COVID – 19 in food businesses, all well-established food businesses are expected to have some form of Food Safety Management Systems in place, and Good Manufacturing Practice to manage food safety hazards and risks.
“The provision from these FSMSs laid down the foundation for ensuring safe foods at each stage of the food processing, manufacture and marketing chain. The idea is the prevention of food contamination.”
The document outlined the imperative for all food business operators to ensure that there were adequate measures in place to protect workers from contracting COVID – 19 as well as strengthen food hygiene and sanitation, generally as well as embracing safe food handling practice.
It also stated the imperatives for the food business operators, retail stores and open markets to provide adequate Personal Protective Equipment and strengthen its personal hygiene procedures.
The advisory was also expected to make available National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control registered hand sanitisers for consumers on their way in and out of the food premises; introduce and enforce physical distancing measures in the food establishments, amongst others.
While it also directed safe transport of food and food business environment, the document said, “delivery staff should not leave the vehicle during delivery, where possible, and should observe all the precautionary measures provided in the advisory document.”
The document said, “More so, in the food business environment, the new advisory stated that staff or food handlers who are unwell should, under no condition be at a food business premises. This is because when an infected person handles food, it is possible to introduce virus to the work surfaces such as counter tops, cash register, etc.
“However, if a staff is feeling unwell or showing symptoms of COVID-19, food managers should find a well-ventilated room or area for staff, if possible, the managers should immediately contact Nigeria Centre for Disease Control through its toll free number 080097000010 or contact the respective State COVID-19 emergency numbers while they wait for proper advice.”
The new advisory also stated that the food manufacturers and retail markets are to liaise with relevant food regulatory agencies such as NAFDAC, Standards Organization of Nigeria and Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Service for advice to ensure that food produced, marketed and sold are safe and wholesome for consumption.