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DRINKING OF WATER SOAKED GARRI IS POSSIBLE WITHOUT FEAR OF LASSA FEVER

 A press release from Nigerian Stored Products Research Institute, NSPRI

 

The current disturbing discourse in the Nigerian public sphere is the fear of Lassa fever. A contribution attributed to the occurrence of Lassa fever mainly to the consumption of water-soaked garri. This is disturbing because the drinking of water-soaked garri to many Nigerians is not only food but it is essentially a lifestyle. 

It is important to note that garri is not the only possible carrier of the Lassa fever virus material but all ready-to-eat food items that are susceptible to contamination by Lassa fever-infested rats and other animals. This ongoing discourse underscores the various messages the Nigerian Stored Products Research Institute (NSPRI), made available to all stakeholders in the food value chain business (for Quality and Safety of crops and products). 

The panacea to the menace of Lassa fever rests solely on the adoption of appropriate sanitation and hygiene practices along the value chain for safe handling, packaging, and storage of food and their products, as recommended by NSPRI. Without any intention of denying lovers of water-soaked their beloved meal, the institute requests that concerted efforts be deployed for effective hygiene and cleanliness during the processing, at marketing and household stages, by keeping the crops and products from contact with rats. 

Furthermore, the fry-dried garri should be dry enough and allowed to cool before packaging in an air-tight hermetic environment such as polythene-lined jute bags, PICS bags, and plastic/metal tight-fitting drums. The use of these structures or packages should be installed in places not accessible to rats. This could be achieved by installing tight-fitting doors, rodent guards along with blocking the possible entrance to the storage area through windows and any other noticeable crack in ceilings or walls. 

The Institute (NSPRI) is hereby calling on State and Local Governments as well as Non-governmental organizations with responsibilities, mandates, and networks in the postharvest value chain to join her in this awareness campaign for effective sensitization of the public, not for proper handling of garri only, but also for all ready-to-eat food products, like smoked fish, confectionaries, roasted groundnuts, fruits, and vegetables. Relevant monitoring agencies for food inspection and sanitation should intensify their efforts across the tiers of government to ensure or enforce compliance.

Dr. (Mrs.) P.O. Pessu,

Executive Director,

NSPRI