Is anyone else afraid of eating food prepared by people you don’t know? Or I’m just another paranoid human worried about baseless things.
My neighborhood bakery bakes the best bread you can ever desire, the aroma produced through the baking process alone can make a grown man break his fast. On this fateful evening, I walked into the bakery to purchase a loaf a bread and the worst happened – the attendant picked a fresh loaf of bread with his bare hands. I immediately lost my composure and out of reflex, I asked ‘Oga, why you no use gloves’, his response was alarming, he claimed gloves cannot be used on freshly baked bread. I looked at him with disgust and kept mum. After all, it might be a normal thing, I thought.
But this is where the issue lies, what’s our definition of normal, considering the fact that the term normal is relative depending on the society concerned. In terms of food hygiene in Nigeria, normal can be considered as very dangerous, normal can lead to death and has led to the death of so many.
A normal scenario is a local food vendor using her bare hand to support the cutlery while serving food like spaghetti and plantain into a plate. Another scenario is the aboki cutting suya ‘roasted meat’ with the support of a knife and his bare hand. And if this is not tormenting enough, have you considered the woman grilling ‘boli and roasted yam’ with her bare hands, not minding the fact that she uses that same hand to adjust the grill, cut extra plantain, receives and return cash.
But then, all these are normal, so we care-less. Our nonchalant attitude towards food hygiene is unbecoming. The situation at hand is extreme, we are not aware of the dangers out of ignorance, based on what we define as normal, and cultural prejudices. A young man dies due to stomach ache and the Nigerians around him are readily on standby to blame the village witches, and no one is asking what and where he eat. This is lamentable.
Just because we haven’t died doesn’t mean it’s not killing us – while in boarding school, I drank water that had black particles straight from the borehole. As students in a government school, it was a normal thing, we had no other option but to leverage on the idea that ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’. I survived for five years, upon graduation I was rushed to the hospital for typhoid fever.
It is out of our acceptance of a degraded concept of normal that led to the outbreak of a water-borne disease in a government school in Lagos, leading to the ill-health of over 1000 students and the death of three young girls. Ignorance is a voluntary misfortune.
I am tired of normal, it’s high time we show concern for our food hygiene. Waiting on relevant government agencies to take responsibility on what we consume will be catastrophic in the near future. Take a bold step, do something like visiting the factory of the company that supplies your community sachet water to check if they are up to standard. It seems like a tiny task, but give it a try.
Be concerned, you’re what you eat.