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Veterinary Services Directorate issues critical alert on safety of animal products on sale

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Members of the public have been advised to take responsibility for the animal products they consume to protect their health.

The Veterinary Services Directorate (VSD) of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA) stated it cannot guarantee the safety of most animal products on the market due to public resistance to its mandate and resource constraints.

“You are what you eat, so when buying food, especially animal products, and you are told this animal is not in good condition, it’s not from recognised sources, it is unhealthy for consumption, and you buy because it’s cheap, it’s your health you are putting at risk,” cautioned Dr Joseph Kofi Abuh, the Greater Accra Regional Veterinary Director.

He spoke at the launch of this year’s Food Safety Month in Accra on Friday, themed: ‘Food Safety: Preparing for the Unexpected.’

This annual event raises awareness about the importance of food safety for public health, emphasizing proactive measures and resilience in managing food safety risks, especially those related to animal health.

Dr Abuh highlighted the importance of animal health in ensuring food safety and stressed the need to fully empower the VSD to prevent foodborne illnesses and maintain the integrity of the food value chain.

“We are the authority for animal health and veterinary public health, but we are constrained in terms of finances, human resources, and logistics.

“Our officers on the ground are sometimes physically abused. We don’t always have the full cooperation of the police to enforce the law. Some butchers also have political backing.

“If not, slaughterhouses in Accra, like Tulaku, Avenor, and Jamestown, should have been closed down by now because we have raised alarms several times about unhealthy practices at these places,” he explained.

Dr. Abuh called for the expedited review of the Diseases of Animals Act 1961 to institute the Animal Health Bill and clearly define the roles of stakeholders along the animal production value chain.

“We believe the Animal Health Bill is very critical for food security and public health. The bill has been under review since 2010 and is currently with the Attorney General’s office. We want them to speed it up to move it to Parliament so it can be passed into law.”

Launching the month-long campaign, Deputy Chief Veterinary Officer Dr. Yaw Fenteng Danso emphasized the VSD’s commitment to ensuring that food products of animal origin are safe for public consumption.

“This month is an opportunity for us to come together and reaffirm our commitment to protecting public health through improved animal health practices and preparedness.

“Preparing for the unexpected in animal health is crucial for food safety, and by prioritising animal health, we can enhance food safety, protect consumers, and promote sustainable agricultural practices,” he stated.

As part of the celebration, the VSD outlined activities for the month, including food safety campaigns at selected slaughterhouses and abattoirs, food safety campaigns in schools, and cooking competitions.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), more than 600 million people fall ill and 420,000 die each year from eating contaminated food.

The WHO reports that 75% of new human pathogens detected over the last three decades originated from animals, and at least 42 significant diseases affecting humans come from ingesting and handling food and water contaminated with animal remnants.

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