Researchers have said more than 200,000 persons die of food poisoning in Nigeria yearly through contaminated foods.
The cost of illnesses associated with foodborne diseases in the country, they added, also is estimated at $ 3.6 billion every year.
Improperly processed cultured and wild fishes are part of the poisoning, Professor Shehu Latunji Akintola, an aquaculture specialist, disclosed during a national workshop on seafood safety certification in Nigeria.
Adoption of homegrown technological innovations in the small-scale fish processing industry, such as solar dryers, tent dryer and multipurpose/hybrid dryers developed by various research institutes would help reduce such cases, he advised.
Traditional mud and drum kilns still dominate the aquaculture processing landscape, cause food poisoning, exposure to smoke hazards and other health-troubling factors.
He recommended that the government and fish industry players should walk the talk by implementing the strategies on food processing in the National Policy on Food and Nutrition in Nigeria and that they should have definite actions implementing the energy issue with regards to fish smoking (National Energy Policy).
He argued that certification is a means to an end and the end is the wellbeing of producers, processors, and consumers.
“Consuming fish which guarantees safety will reduce the burden of ill health associated with cancer, among other deadly diseases. There is a need to ensure domestic fishes are safe for consumption. Let prioritise our health alongside the quest for foreign exchange.”
Fish exporters have raised concerns about ecolabel requirements acting as technical barriers to trade for access to international markets, which the United States of America has used to ban the importation of Nigeria-processed catfish.
Training on good practices that are required for certification to penetrate the international markets for greater economic gains is germane to encourage productivity, value addition, and economic prosperity.
He said these become imperative because “consumers in our own domestic markets have not shown much appetite for certified seafood.”
Speaking on ‘Milestones and Future Prospects of Fish Product Certification in Nigeria,’ Professor Martins Anetekhai of the Department of Fisheries, Lagos State University, harped on “keeping to and complying with best practices to deliver quality product to consumers; uniform standards and comparable results; sustainable utilisation of fish production and fisheries resources and production to ensure economic benefit for today and generation yet unborn.”
He, too, recommended adequate data collation on upstream, midstream and downstream value chain players in fishery and aquaculture for strategic planning and management.
He also suggested “Development of national, regional, continental, standard compliance and certification; harmonisation with the international community; well defined competent authority and establishment of standards to ensure traceability.