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Food of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL)

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Food safety in Afghanistan after 2016

 

For the first time in history, finally Afghanistan enacted
a food safety law in 2016. This law in nature is very strict but since then
there is no major change in the food sector especially in the restaurants, food
retails, vegetables and fruits sale and street food.

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Since safety of food is concern of everybody, and it is
hard to find any person who has not encountered an unkind moment of foodborne disease
at least once in every year in the country. Foodborne disease may upshot from eating
of food contaminated by microbial pathogens, toxic chemicals or radioactive
materials. Food allergy is another evolving problem. Though many foodborne illnesses
may be self-limiting, some can be very grave and even result in death. So far
in Afghanistan there is no foodborne disease surveillance system, therefore, it
is difficult to estimate the number outbreaks, number of deaths, rate of hospitalization
and the economic value in either working days lost or amount of money lost.

 

Ensuring food safety is becoming increasingly essential
in the context of changing food habits, popularization of mass cooking
establishments and the globalization of our food supply. As our food supply
becomes increasingly globalized, the need to reinforce food safety systems in the
country is very important.

 

Following are reasons that why food businesses are not
meeting the minimum food safety requirement and legal requirement of Food
Safety Law:

 

1.     
Lak of professional staff to enforce
the food law

Ministry of Public
Health (MoPH) and Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL) are
the two ministries mainly involved in the enforcement of food safety law. Since
the country didn’t have food science and technology or food safety education in
past, there is severe lack of food experts. This factor may have resulted in
delayed enforcement of the food law in the country.  Few civil servants are available but they don’t
have either good knowledge of the new field (food safety) or they have lack of
access to tools/material to conduct public inspection of the food facilities. However,
when a law is enacted by president, there is need to fully comply with the requirements.
In addition, enforcing this law has another importance because it can help
proactively control the outbreak of several foodborne diseases and unexpected
deaths.

 

2.     
Availability of
facilities

In Afghanistan
business was not very difficult. Therefore, anyone can open a restaurant, food
stall or a small food processing/packing company. There were no/minimal
information prior to starting a food business for the entrepreneurs. Thus,
whatever they wished, they could do. Few impediment to food safety in this
sector was and is litter disposal, lack of lavatory facilities for the
customers and supply of potable water to the food facility. Most of the eating
stalls everywhere in the cities are categorized by unhygienic settings,
including poor water supply and poor drainage systems, insanitary leftover
disposal and overloading, resulting in poor individual and environmental sanitation.
Another area of food safety alarm is the supply source of foods, and ingredients.
Most of these institutions purchase their raw materials and constituents in the
open markets. Foods, especially meat, fish and ingredients are often exhibited
openly on stands and on the ground in very poor sanitary settings, while
unwashed fingers are used to feel foodstuffs and ingredients for texture and to
ascertain the suitability of manual grinding. The dominance of flies at the
markets and the apparent lack of facilities for safeguarding food suggest a
high potential for contamination in preparation, facilities and infrastructure.

 

 

3.     
Education and
Training

Another
major problem is lack of education and training. It has two sides, first
majority of Afghans are illiterate but from other side, they rarely receive food
safety and hygiene education. This is one of the factors impacting food handlers
and managers safe food preparation practices is food safety education and
training. Experience in other countries shown that handlers in facilities that
provide food safety training are more probable to wash their hands in
comparison to those that do not get trained; food facilities with food
safety–certified managers are less probable to be accompanying with foodborne disease
epidemics than food facilities without these managers and that businesses with
food safety–certified managers are less likely to have serious violations on
their food safety inspections than those without these managers.

 

4.     
Habits/Ego

Not only must – food
handlers obey the regulations as laid down by the health authorities, but they
need to overcome what may be unconscious habits such as scratching themselves,
squeezing pimples, running their hands and fingers through their hair, playing
with earrings, picking their nose, and wiping their hand across their mouth. Not
only are these things displeasing to look at from a customer’s point of view,
but they provide the means of transportation (hitch-hiking) for the spread of
bacteria.

 

5.     
Management commitment

In order to bring positive changes in the food business food safety environment,
there is need to have a strong management commitment. This another factor that many
food businesses in Afghanistan cannot have minimal food safety facilities,
training and clean environment.

 

To
conclude, above are few highlighted for prevention and safety issues that
increased the likelihood of outbreaks of food-borne diseases originating from
many of the food businesses. To help mitigate these risks, food business should
be targeted for intensive inspection and improvement of the sanitary conditions
of their facilities. Furthermore, Ministry of Agriculture can assist farmers to
implement Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) and improve food safety at the
farm. These practices may help to reduce the potential risks of the sources of
food supply. The lack of current knowledge of food safety among the food
handling staff needs an urgent call for the development of an appropriate
training program for food service personnel in order to avert the potential
danger of food-borne illness outbreaks. Government involvement might include
public service announcements promoting food safety and offers of some types of
incentives to encourage food businesses to participate in trainings, especially
restaurants, fast-food restaurants and itinerant food hawking operators.

 

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