UN Envoy, Nutritionists Advise Against Inadequate Food Refrigeration

A member of the United Nations Independent International Fact-Finding Mission for Sudan, Prof. Joy Ezeilo, SAN, and some certified nutritionists have advised against the inadequate freezing of foods due to epileptic power supply.

Ezeilo and the nutritionists said refrigerated and frozen food must maintain a specific temperature to ensure safe consumption without adverse health consequences.

Their remarks came on the heels of the claim by the Minister of Power, Adebayo Adelabu, that Nigerians were wasting energy by keeping their freezers and air conditioners running even when not at home, adding that energy was too cheap in the country.

Adelabu had said, “A lot of people will come back from work, they want to have dinner, or they want to see their colleagues down the road, they switch on the AC for the room to be cooling before they come back.

“Some people will be going to work in the morning, a freezer that you left on for days, they will still leave it on when all the items in the freezer are frozen and five, six, or eight hours of their absence will not make it to defreeze, they will still leave it to be consuming power just because we are not paying enough. We have all been overseas before; we know how conscious the power consumers are about electricity consumption.”

Reacting to the Power minister’s position, Ezeilo, a Professor of Law at the University of Nigeria, Nsuka, Enugu State, said the Power minister’s recommendations on energy saving measures, if followed, could potentially put Nigerians’ health at risk.

We kindly request that the Federal Ministry of Health and Social Welfare and NAFDAC advise the honourable minister of Power and the Nigerian people regarding the health risks of freezing, defreezing, and refreezing food and, importantly, how to store food safely in refrigerators and freezers.

“Refrigerated and frozen food must maintain a specific temperature to ensure safe consumption without adverse health consequences. If followed, the minister of Power’s recommendation could potentially put Nigerians’ health at risk.

“It appears that the minister may not fully grasp some of these technical details, underscoring the need for your expert guidance. Always prioritise food safety,” the envoy stated via her verified X handle.

A food, nutrition, and dietetics expert, Tolulope Ajayi, said, “Foods kept in the freezer should be maintained well below 4°C. This is because freezing slows down the growth of bacteria like yeast, and mold that cause food-borne illnesses, a public health issue now in Nigeria.

“Also, freezing at that specific temperature helps preserve the food’s quality in terms of its flavour, texture, taste, etc, hence, failure to keep the food safe at that temperature will predispose a lot of Nigerians to food-borne illnesses. This is because of urbanisation and the busy/hustling schedule of people.”

In her submission, a community/public health nutritionist, Omotola Adebayo, said, “Various techniques, including frying, drying, grilling, baking, refrigeration are employed to preserve food and prolong its shelf life. Some of these techniques have led to the loss of important nutrients, which are frequently released by heat, light, and air, as well as changes in the food’s texture, freshness, and colour.

“However, refrigeration of food at a temperature below 4oC has been shown to help retain the freshness, nutrients, and taste of food if kept refrigerated within one week.

“This approach is frequently used to preserve the majority of perishable goods, including meat, fish, milk, dairy products, and eggs since it helps to maintain a significant proportion of the vitamins found in them.

“When refrigerated at room temperature, the protein and carbohydrate composition of this product have been discovered to be unaffected. Studies have shown that improper refrigeration of food can lead to the growth of bacteria and viruses such as Salmonella enteritidis, Campylobacter, and Staphylococcus aureus, which can cause diarrhoea, bloody stools, and uncontrollable vomiting among many other food-borne infections.”

Also in an interview, a food consultant, Otubusin Oluwafisayomi, said, “Temperature control is crucial. Both refrigerated and frozen foods need to be stored at specific temperatures to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria that can cause foodborne illness. This can also be termed food poisoning.”

Source: The Punch