In a presentation, Dr. Faustina Dufie Wireko-Manu, a lecturer in the Department of Food Science and Technology, stated that ‘we are what we eat’ and that food provided nutrients for good health and could be used to prevent/manage food-related illnesses. She added that food was important for all living organisms including humans, pests and microbes. She explained that when food came into uncontrolled contact with any pests or microbes it often resulted in food spoilage, contamination and poisoning with consequent food-borne illnesses. She stated that there were more than 250 food-borne diseases which are caused by bacteria, viruses and pests.
Dr. Wireko-Manu mentioned that in the past, cholera epidemics for instance happened in Ghana in a cycle of 6-7 years but it reduced to between 3-4 years in the 2000’s and currently it occurred between one and two years or even less. Other food-borne diseases such as dysentery, diarrhoea and others were on the increase. There was thus the need to educate pupils on food hygiene, safety and good nutrition in general.
She defined food hygiene as an application of sanitary principles for the preservation of health which covered cleanliness, protection of food from contamination and making food safe. She emphasized the importance of personal hygiene in food hygiene.
The programme included a video show on practical ways of keeping food safe. Pupils were taught to do the following through the video presentation:
Wash their hands with soap after using the toilets, before handling food and often during food preparation. Wash and sanitize all surfaces and equipment used for food preparation. Protect the kitchen area from insects and pests.
Separate raw meat, poultry and sea food from other foods, and use separate equipment and utensils during their handling. Foods must be kept in containers to avoid contact between raw and cooked foods.
Cook meat, poultry, eggs and sea foods thoroughly. Avoid over-cooking when frying, grilling or baking foods because toxic compounds may be produced. Reheat cooked foods thoroughly before eating.
Refrigerate promptly all cooked and perishable foods (preferably below 50C). Cooked foods should not be left at room temperature for more than two hours. Foods should not be refrigerated for too long. Frozen foods should not be stored at room temperature.
Use safe water or treat it to make it safe. Select fresh and wholesome foods, wash fruits and vegetables, especially if it is to be eaten raw.
Do not use foods beyond their expiry dates.
Students were cautioned to ensure food was in good condition before consumption and that they had the right to insist on this when purchasing food from vendors.
Miss Jessica Ayensu, a final year MPhil Nutrition and Dietetics student also advised the students to eat foods that contained all the nutrients in the food groups in their right proportion and quantity. She stated that such meals should be balanced, be taken in moderation and the variety/time element should be considered. She advised that students should always take breakfast before going to school as breakfast assisted in the metabolism process and maintenance of weight. It also enhanced mood, stimulated intelligence and the immune system. She encouraged the students to avoid taking in junk foods and to drink a lot of water to avoid dehydration.
The pupils and teachers were delighted to receive such education and asked many questions to which Dr. Wireko-Manu and Miss Jessica Ayensu answered to the satisfaction of all.
The 3rd edition of the community outreach is scheduled to take place on the 9th of April 2015 where both food vendors at the school, teachers and the last set of pupils will be educated.