HEALTH authorities are concerned that food-borne illnesses are on the rise in both developed and developing countries, mainly due to biological hazards and unhealthy diets.
With the outbreak of cholera in some parts of the Morobe province, Health secretary Dr Clement Malau has raised grave concern that people are simply not observing and practising basic hygiene.
In Papua New Guinea, the sale of cooked food out in the open has become a normal business activity along provincial highways, road sides, markets and even on the streets, putting consumers at high risk of falling sick to diseases like cholera and diarrhoea.
The issue of food safety is now being targeted on food business operators in the country.
A meeting was held last week between the Food Safety Council and representatives from various food businesses to discuss the Food Sanitation Regulation 2007.
Deputy Health secretary Dr Paison Dakulala, who opened the meeting, said food safety was an issue that affected everyone and imposed a heavy social and economic burden on communities and the health system.
Food-borne diseases involving biological and chemical contaminants, Dr Dakulala said, highlighted problems with food safety and increased public anxiety that farming systems, food processing and marketing did not provide adequate safeguards for public health.
He said contributing factors included:
* Improper agricultural practices;
* Poor hygiene at all stages of the food chain;
* Lack of preventive controls in food processing and preparation operations;
* Misuse of chemicals;
* Contaminated raw materials, ingredients and water;
* Inadequate and improper storage;and
* Unsafe transportation mechanisms.
“Moreover, food-borne infections are undiagnosed and unreported as it becomes a norm to affected people when having a few episodes of diarrhoea and recovering soon without seeking medical assistance or the medical personnel does not make the specific diagnosis related to food safety hazards,” Dr Dakulala said.
“To achieve that goal we need to work in close coordination and cooperation among different Government departments and relevant stakeholders in sharing resources, expertise and information.”