The Health and Rights Education Programme (Hrep) has asked government and authorities to make food safety a public health priority. Hrep has also urged Capital Hill to revisit and strengthen food testing centres and institutions in the country.
The call came as Malawi joined the world on Tuesday April 7 in commemorating the World Health Day under the theme: From Farm to Plate, Make Food Safe.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, Hrep executive director Maziko Matemba said government needs to consider building and maintaining adequate food systems and infrastructure such as laboratories to respond to and manage food safety risks along the entire food chain, including during emergencies.
Said Matemba: “Though we do not have data that determines cause of death due to bad and unsafe food, we are aware that most Malawians are exposed to contaminated food in local markets and restaurants.
“It is against this backdrop that there is need to foster multi-sectoral collaboration among public health, animal health, agriculture specialists, civil society organisations and food business operators, among others, to integrate food safety into broader food policies and programmes.”
He said it is high time duties of institutions such as the Malawi Bureau of Standards (MBS) are enforced by examining shelf life of foods in stores as well as testing meat for human consumption.
According to World Health Organisation (WHO), over 200 diseases are caused by dangerous food-borne pathogens such as bacteria, parasites, viruses and toxins, as well as harmful chemicals.
A WHO report released this year estimates that two million deaths occur every year from contaminated food or drinking water, a situation Matemba described as worrisome to the attainment of right to life, a fundamental human right government needs to protect.