The Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) has reminded food vendors nationwide of the need to acquire “Food Hygiene Permit” from the Authority to legalise their operations or face legal actions – a jail term, fine or both.
The permit requires that the Authority inspects the work environment of the vendor to ascertain its hygienic nature, the personal hygiene exhibited by workers around food as well as the condition of groceries used to cook and sell to customers.
Ms Maria-Lovelace Johnson, the Director, Inspectorate Directorate of the FDA, who gave the caution in an interview with the Ghana News Agency, asked operators of food joints to visit the FDA’s website (www.fdaghana.gov.gh) or office to apply for the permit.
“So you pay a little amount, fill a form, and we will go and inspect your work environment and give you the permit. If we pay visits and you are caught without it, you can be fined, jailed or given both,” she cautioned.
The step is part of the FDA’s “Progressive Licensing Scheme” and overall mandate, to promote food safety and public health.
Section 130 (1) of the Public Health Act 2012 (Act 851) states that: “A person shall not manufacture for sale, sell, supply or store products regulated under this part except in premises registered for the purpose under this part.”
The Act, therefore, requires that all food establishments, including ‘chop bar’ operators regularised their activities by making their structures available to the FDA for inspection as part of the licensing process.
Ms Johnson, who said the step would be strictly enforced, asked the already registered facilities to display their certificates or permits where it could be spotted by the Authority and potential customers and advised the public to look out for such permits from eateries before buying from them.
The Director described food safety as the assurance that food when consumed according to its intended purpose would not cause harm to the consumer, adding that it was, therefore, the obligation of the Authority to ensure that the public did not buy “danger” into their bodies.
“You must make sure that after taking food, you don’t have to suffer any consequences. People after gathering money to buy food, do not have to experience ill consequences like diarrhea,” she said.
She said safe food gave consumers good health and nourishment, and safeguarded them from health problems like gastroenteritis (diarrhea and vomiting), headaches, tummy aches.
Ms Johnson explained that foods could be contaminated through biological, chemical and physical means, where biological means being caused by microorganisms like bacteria, viruses, parasites, protozoa, fungi and prions.
Chemical contamination occurred when food was contaminated by cleaning products, pesticides and herbicides from unwashed fruits and vegetables, while physical contamination is when an object enters food at some stage of the production, preparation or serving process.
“There are fungi like Aspergillus flavus that cause some black thing in there and produces exotoxin and the famous Aflatoxin, so things like these make the food unsafe because no matter the treatment you give to the Aflatoxin, it is still heat stable,” she said.
She advised operators of food joints to prioritise the health and safety of the public to sustain their businesses.