By Samson Echenim
The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) is seeking the collaboration of food and environmental regulatory agencies at airports in the country, as well as the cooperation of food vendors and suppliers to curb the menace of food poisoning at airports and onboard aircraft.
There is presently growing concern over reported cases of food poisoning around Nigerian airports and onboard aircraft.
At a food safety awareness workshop to enlighten airport food vendors and suppliers organised by FAAN in Lagos, Hamisu Yudada, managing director of the authority called on Port Health, NAFDAC and other relevant bodies regulating foods and consumables and handlers not to compromise in their regulatory oversights as the authority is determined to ensure best international practices with regards to food vendoring at the airport.
Represented by Nehemiah Auta, from the agency, Yudada charged airlines to ensure that their foods are handled in the most hygienic manner while onboard, adding that people selling food within the premises of airports across the country will also be regulated in line with international best practices.
He charged the airport health unit to ensure that the routine six months medical examinations on airport restaurant operators and their workers to ascertain their fitness and personal hygiene are not compromised.
“No one can operate in our environment without a licence. All of the people that sell food must come under the scrutiny of our medical people before they are allowed to sell,” Yudada said.
According to him, FAAN wants to develop a stronger synergy, adding that an airport being an environment that is regulated entirely, FAAN would sit with the various agencies that regulate the sector, look at where the gaps are in the area of food delivery and safety and ensure they plug the holes and close the gaps.
Ifem Francis, director, food safety and applied nutrition, NAFDAC, noted that food safety is a serious matter as the airport and onboard aircraft are restricted environments.
“When a crew experiences food poisoning onboard there is no one to replace him. If it affects a passenger it is difficult to handle because the aircraft is a restricted area. So things can turn really bad,” he said.
He urged airlines and airport authority to demand NAFDAC certification from food vendors who intend to operate at the airport or supply the airlines.
Arese Lucia Ojelede, the workshop trainer, who spoke to a paper, ‘Aviation Industry and Food Safety: Connecting the Link’, noted that most travellers are now aware of their rights violation when they experience food poisoning and are always ready to press charges against airlines and food vendors.
She noted that even though most cases of food poisoning are not reported, airlines and food vendors risk litigation and huge losses in compensation for poor handling of food that results in food poisoning.
According to her symptoms of food poisoning include diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, fever, headache, abdominal pains and cramps.