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General News of Thursday, 21 March 2013

Source: Cameroon Tribune

SoS From Packaged Foods!

The scenes are common; from Kousseri in the extreme Far-North to Kye-Ossi in the southernmost parts of the South Region or from Gari-Gombo in the East to Isangele in the extreme westerly point of the South-West, it is likely one would come across itinerant sellers of food displayed on open trays destined for consumption.

Citizens have all this while made do with such a situation especially as the situation has not created worrisome cases with regard to health. One must earnestly thank the Almighty for keeping these hapless citizens safe from the obvious health hazards such a situation should normally lead them to.

To match with growing urbanization and the attendant need to adapt to it through such measures as packaging readily eatable food, many business people have taken to producing packaged food, especially that which can be eaten instantly. In the process, all the necessary measures with regard to hygiene have not been scrupulously respected. Many packaged items do not carry expiry dates and cases of food intoxication are understandably on an exponential rise.

Day in day out, cases of clients rushing back into shops or bakeries to complain or return a sandwich or other items after discovering their staleness or poor condition, are on the rise. If it were simply cases of locally packaged items, one would think of a quick solution; but traders nowadays feel no restraint at all about selling expired packaged foods to buyers. Many buyers do not know about the condition of what they buy; but many others, because of ambient poverty, readily accept these items because they are often offered at lower prices.

In our main cities, it is common practice to see hawkers carrying expired tinned foods on wheelbarrows which they offer at give-away prices oftentimes under the noses of those ostensibly charged with controlling the quality of food Cameroonians are expected to eat. Many of these items also adorn food counters even in the most unsuspecting and regularly-visited shopping malls in our cities.

The real health dangers posed by the present situation are not difficult to fathom, especially as a cash-strapped population is ever so ready to sacrifice quality for downgrade quantity. The situation so created goes beyond purely health concerns. It is a veritable security risk given the number of citizens who are exposed to danger and the wide-ranging effects an epidemic or generalized intoxication can cause. It will therefore take the joint efforts of the health authorities, the security agencies and even local councils to bring the situation to normalcy.