Posted by Obinna Anyanwu

On June 21, 2024
ReFoSTS NIFST Western Chapter

The theme for 2024 Summit (Ajilete 2024) of the Nigerian Institute of Food Science and Technology (Western Chapter) is: Innovations in Food Technology: Enhancing Safety, Nutrition and Economic Opportunities.

The major focus of the Summit was that for any scientific innovations in food processing and handling to be meaningful, relevant and impactful, the issues of safety, nutrition and economic values must be taken into consideration. Other important observations and recommendations made during the Summit are as follows:

  1. There are many cottage food industries operating in Nigeria which are currently not complying with good manufacturing practice (GMP) requirements. The Summit recommended that the relevant law enforcement agencies in the country must do the needful by ensuring that these industries comply with all aspects of good manufacturing practice (GMP) requirements that can guarantee food safety, nutrition and economic development.
  2. There are many food products of high economic values that can be obtained from cassava roots. These include custard, starch, flour, fufu, and gari, among others. The on-going breeding programme on seed system by Research Institutes involving crops such as cassava has been receiving feedback from the end-users (processors and consumers) such that the information might be useful in fine-tuning the breeding
    programme itself. The Summit was of the opinion that this practice of collecting feedback from the end-users (processors and consumers) is the most appropriate approach for a good seed system programme that can guarantee safety, nutrition and economic development.
  3. The role of law enforcement by the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) particularly on packaged food products is well known and appreciated. However, the non-packaged food commodities such as beans, cereal grains, gari, and plantain, among others; are being consumed by majority of people but outside the mandate of NAFDAC’s control. The absence of control had been observed to be causing safety concerns due to sharp practices by the vendors of these nonpackaged food commodities. The Summit therefore recommended the following solutions:
    • The Nigerian Institute of Food Science and Technology (NIFST) should be empowered to carry out investigation on complaints and incidents of sharp practices by the vendors of non-packaged food commodities.
    • The Nigerian Institute of Food Science and Technology (NIFST), in collaboration with the Public Health Officers at local government level, should be empowered to investigate and prosecute vendors of non-packaged food commodities who are involved in the violation of food safety standards.
  4. The degree of postharvest food losses and wastes in Nigeria has been observed to be greater than 30%. Appropriate technologies are therefore needed to combat these losses and wastes in the developing countries like Nigeria. The various emerging technologies such as Wasteless, Apeel’s Technology, Meako Technology, One-third, Cold Plasma and Plasma-activated Water Technology; may not be appropriate for use in the developing countries to combat postharvest losses and wastes. The Summit therefore recommended that our various researchers must focus on upgrading the effectiveness of the existing indigenous technologies for the reduction of postharvest losses and wastes such as drying, fermentation and heat treatment, among others. The research findings, however, must be transmitted to the end-users through the extension services at institutional and government levels.
  5. It was observed that the level of participation of people from the food industries at our various Conferences and Summits has been very low. In order to change the trend for good, it was suggested that the NIFST leadership must embark on robust interaction and collaboration with the management of our various food industries. This may include helping them to solve industrial scientific problems, deliberate invitation to deliver lectures on the significance of their industries to national development, etc.
  6. Most multi-national food industries in Nigeria are currently integrating modern technologies into their industrial operations. Such technologies involve digital transformation, automation of process technology, smart packaging and upskilling of personnel, among others. However, the processing of our various indigenous commercial food products (e.g. akara, fufu, moin-moin, etc) currently lack any
    meaningful standardized technology which invariably can lead to challenges in storability, food safety, nutrition and economic values. The Summit therefore recommended the following:

    • Our researchers must focus their studies on the development of home-grown technologies in solving local food challenges particularly standardized process technology.
    • The academia-industry relationship should be strengthened for mutual benefits through interactions and collaborations such as industrial outputs in our curriculum development. It was also suggested that such academia-industry relationship could be facilitated through our interaction with Manufacturer Association of Nigeria (MAN).
    • That our students in higher institutions should be allowed to have regular visits to the industries for them to be aware of current trends in emerging technologies.
    • Our food developers should get into information technology (IT) space which will assist in process technology improvement for quality food products and efficiency.
  7. Smart packaging technology is already in use in many multi-national food industries with associated merits of providing information on quality deterioration and possible spoilage, among others. However, most of our indigenous commercial food products are not appropriately packaged thereby leading to contamination, shorter shelf life and quality compromise. The Summit recommended that our researchers should direct their efforts towards the development of appropriate packaging system for our indigenous commercial food products that can guarantee safety, nutrition and economic values.
  8. It was observed that some commercial vegetables such as carrot, cucumber and tomato are heavily contaminated by food-borne microorganisms such as bacillus species. It was therefore suggested that a very important action that could minimize the problem is for our vegetable vendors to be properly trained on vegetable handling after harvest which will go a long way to guarantee safety and hygiene.
  9. It was similarly observed that the developing countries could accelerate progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) whose primary objectives are to eradicate poverty in all forms, end hunger, achieve food sufficiency and improve nutrition; if their various researches are deliberately tailored. The Summit therefore was of the opinion that these objectives are achievable through motivation and encouragement of our researchers in our various Higher Education Institutions and Research Institutes towards the conduct of researches that satisfy the SDG goals. This will go a long way in promoting community development and Town and Gown deliverables.