Healthcare beyond hospital walls(3): Healthy products

Consuming healthy products is so important. Health is life and anyone who has had to deal with sickness will totally agree.

At Healthynaija we are looking to bring health issues to the forefront of public discourse including issues that are related to health but hardly given the attention they deserve.

This is what our 4-week blog series aims to achieve. We want to change the way we as a society view health and hope that policy makers also take this more holistic view we propose.

You can read the first on preventive medicine as well as the second which looks at the environment.

This week our focus is on quality control of marketed products, both edible and non-edible.

Everyday, Nigerians buy several products from the markets, from those consumed into the body to those used on the skin or for other purposes.

These products can have huge impact on health and it’s the duty of certain government agencies to protect the citizenry.

Let’s consider a few examples

Fast food: The fast food industry is a huge industry in Nigeria. With an expanding middle class more Nigerians are relying on fast food to met their nutritional needs but the question is who is regulating? What kind of environment are these foods prepared? Are certain preservatives which may not be healthy used?

Raw food: many of our towns have big abbatoirs where anumals are killed and the process should normally be preceded by ensuring the health of such animals. The question remains if that is been done.

How about food crops? many times we hear about some farmers using certain chemicals to hasten ripening of fruits or to store food products like beans to prevent insect infestation. Who is educating them on better ways of storage so as not to risk the health of the general public?

Packaged foods: there has been a huge influx of canned or packaged food into the Nigerian market with many of such imported.

Most countries put limits on the amount of preservatives allowed and even ban the use of some preservatives in food packaging because of percieved deleterious effects on health.

There is a need to closely monitor such kinds of products here in Nigeria as well. Fake drugs remain a challenge in these parts and are quite relevant to this conversation though they aren’t food.

Non-edible Products: Cosmetics are a big deal as well. Many common cosmetic ingredients have been suspected to be carcinogenic (cancer causing) especially at certain levels, others have several harmful effects on the body.

There is a real need to regulate what is sold in the market to protect the everyday consumer who might not know what’s healthy and what’s not.

A common product like paint is still manufactured with lead in Nigeria when several years ago its use has been banned in countries like the United States.

These are a few examples of areas health policy must focus on all in the bid to prevent diseases like cancer, cardiovascular diseases etc.

Our health policy must define standards for all the points discussed above to ensure that only healthy products get to the markets with agencies empowered to enforce laws and act in the interest of the public.

Agencies such as the Standards Organisation of Nigeria, NAFDAC and relevant health departments must do a better job.

Olusanya Oluwatomi

@dhealthactivist on twitter