SOUTHERN Africa food safety experts have said Zimbabwean consumers are being exposed to unsafe food as there is a lack of food hygiene in most retail shops.
Unsafe food containing harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemical substances, causes more than 200 diseases — ranging from diarrhoea to cancers, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
An estimated 600 million people, almost one in 10 people in the world, fall ill after eating contaminated food and 420 000 die every year, resulting in the loss of 33 million healthy life years.
Children under five years of age carry 40 percent of the foodborne disease burden, with 125 000 deaths every year. Diarrhoeal diseases are the most common illnesses resulting from the consumption of contaminated food, causing 550 million people to fall ill and 230 000 deaths every year.
Speaking to Daily News in an interview yesterday Southern Africa food safety consultant and director at Food Integrity Africa, Erica Nyangoni said food hygiene was rarely prioritised in Zimbabwe.
“As a practicing food hygiene and food safety professional who has conducted food inspections in the entire Southern Africa region, my overall conclusion is that there is a huge gap between food hygiene and food safety rules in Zimbabwe.
“This means that to a greater extent the consumers in the country are being exposed to unsafe food.
“I say this because dirty shelves, walkways including till points are typical of certain outlets. Food displays with evident stains and previously dried up food waste are what we look at.
“There is also a current tendency for retailers to change expiry dates by sticking a new expiry date on top of the original dates. Mouldy and rotten fruits are also sold at discounted prices.
“There is also poor food handling practices whereby cold foods are not being kept at the recommended low temperatures while hot food is not being kept at the recommended high temperature. Food is left too long in the danger zone breeding and multiplying contaminations,” said Nyangoni.
She said consumers had a role to play in ensuring that the food they consume is safe for food production.
“People should make informed choices, be discriminate and selective, read the best before date and be familiar with common food hazards,” she said.
Bulawayo municipal development programme director, Takawira Mubvami said: “The scenario we have in our cities is that there is sometimes little consideration for health issues when people are purchasing food.
“People consider affordability at the expense of health implications.”
Last year Bulawayo City Council listed 13 food outlets and butcheries as unsafe due to low hygiene. By Hazel Marimbiza