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Food and Public Health: UG Professor, GAAS fellow shows how food safety and health go hand in hand

The Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences (GAAS), a premier learned society on the 5th of October, 2023 organized its 2023 Annual Lecture in the Sciences. Titled Food and Public Health, the lecture delved deeper into food exploring food from multiple perspectives, focusing mainly on food safety and health.

The lecture was delivered by Professor Amos Laar, a Fellow of the Academy and a Professor of Public Health Nutrition at the University of Ghana School of Public Health.

During the lecture, Prof. Amos Laar noted that, food sometimes is depicted as safe foods, fast foods, junk foods, ultra-processed foods, as well as healthy and unhealthy foods. He, however, noted that, “If what you consider food will make you sick then it is not food.”

Prof. Amos Laar

He went on to mention that ultra-processed foods which include foods highly processed foods high in salt, fat sugar, and other synthetic non-food materials should not be considered food. He further argued that these products  are made and designed in ways that make consumers overconsume them hence causing an increase in diet-related non-communicable diseases.

“Several studies link the consumption of ultra-processed foods to several health problems stating a recent survey which showed a steep decrease in mental wellbeing with high consumption of ultra-processed foods. One study, he noted showed that high consumption of ultra-processed foods increases depression risk by 50%. Also, infants and toddlers are exposed to ultra-processed foods”.

Professor Laar indicated that dietary transition has led to increased consumption of ultra-processed foods as compared to the consumption of Ghanaian locally-made foods which are healthier.

Prof. Laar explained that the current food environment makes it challenging for consumers to make healthy food decisions. In Ghana, the increased promotion of unhealthy foods through adverts has resulted in increased diet-related non-communicable diseases not only among adults but also among children. He emphasized that driven by unhealthy food environments NCDs are predicted to be the leading cause of death in Ghana by 2030.

He ended by saying it is possible to make food policies that assure healthier, safer, fairer food environments. He urged the government of Ghana to adopt healthy food policies that can make a positive in Ghana’s health.

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