The Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) on Tuesday commenced a two-day workshop to finalise the adoption of the Draft National Food Safety Emergency Response Plan (FoSERP) programme.
The National FoSERP, which comes at the backdrop of a stakeholders' meeting held in 2019 to strengthen the collaboration among all relevant institutions along the food chain, is aimed at providing a coordinated and consistent inter-agency approach to prepare for, prevent, protect against, mitigate, respond to and recover from incidents.
Mrs Delese A. Darko, Chief Executive Officer, FDA, said the finalisation workshop among other things was to ensure that all comments and contributions from stakeholders during the 2019 workshop had been considered in the document for finalisation and adoption for use by the country.
She said food safety emergencies had become a challenge in the country as well as globally both by its public health impact and economic implications and as such, to limit public health impact of food safety, there was the need to adopt an alert system which could detect, assess and manage Food Safety incidence that could increase the risk to the lives of people.
She said the FoSERP was crucial to the foundation of the food system, as it served as a guiding plan and an efficient blueprint for success in preventing, and reducing food hazards and illness, thereby helping the socio-economic development of the country.
Mrs Darko said food safety systems were crucial because they formed the backbone of human life and in the spate of the pandemic, preserving human lives was the aim of the health system.
"As the country progresses and reaches various timelines such as the Sustainable Development Goals in 2030, the factors influencing human life such as the food we eat were at the centre stage and in line with the FoSERP in ensuring the health and wellbeing of Ghanaians."
She commended the World Health Organisation (WHO), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation for their supports in ensuring the success of the FoSERP.
Dr Francis Kasolo, World Health Organisation (WHO) Representative to Ghana, said food safety continued to be a major concern worldwide and that the WHO estimated that 600 million people, almost one in 10 people fell ill eating contaminated food each year, resulting in 420,000 deaths and the loss of 33 million healthy life years.
He said foodborne illnesses did not only affect public health but also had an enormous economic impact, and the Africa region was reported to be the region with the highest burden of foodborne disease and the highest death rate with an estimated 91 million annual foodborne illnesses and 137, 000 deaths.
He said a national food safety system that included a national system of information exchange were critical to manage food safety incidents and emergencies and to reduce the public health, economic and social impact from such incidents and emergency.
"The process does not end here, following the validation, we will need to put in measures for its implementation which again would require all our joint efforts."
Madam Anna Mukiibi Bunnya, Deputy Country Director, World Food Programme, said food incidents were not strange to them in their operations.
She said food safety was important to achieving food security by ensuring that everybody had access to wholesome, safe, and nutritious food wherever they were and in whatever capacity.
Mrs Jocelyn Adeline Egyakwa-Amusah, Head of Food Safety Management Department, FDA, said the workshop was to finalise and adopt the National FoSERP for implementation.
She said it was also to serve as a national operational plan to address threats along the food chain into, which all supporting agency plans, procedural documents and other guidance integrate, as well as define the emergency operational structure and assign an essential task to all organisations involved in the prevention, protection, mitigation, response and recovery efforts.
Mr Benjamin Osei-Tutu, Head of Public Education and Foodborne Disease Surveillance, FDA, said FoSERP covered all incidents along the food chain and that the FDA and its collaborating agencies were managing complaints on adverse events, recalls of unintentional contamination of food products that presented a threat of serious adverse health consequences or death to humans, and foodborne illness outbreaks and pandemics.
FoSERP applies the exchange of information on food safety matters between the FDA and its collaborating agencies, and have five emergency operational phases including prevention, protection, mitigation, response and recovery.
The FDA exists to protect public health by assuring the safety, efficacy and security of human and veterinary drugs, food, biological products, cosmetics, medical devices, household chemical substances, tobacco and the conduct of clinical trials in the country.