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Anti-Counterfeit Network drags WFP to court over supply of contaminated food in Karamoja region

In March 2019, World Food Programme (WFP) suspended the distribution of fortified food, Super Cereal, in Karamoja amid food poisoning claims (WFP PHOTO)

KAMPALA – An organization fighting counterfeit products has dragged the World Food Program (WFP) to court over negligence, causing injury and death when they supplied contaminated food in Napak and Amudat, Karamoja region.

WFP was sued together with Minister of Health and Attorney General.

Anti-Counterfeit Network in its suit filed before the High Court on June 14, claims that the act of WFP supplying contaminated food to the people of Karamoja violated International food standards and was/is a negligent, inhuman, degrading, illegal, unreasonable and irrational act of public misfeasance.

They go on to state that the 2nd respondent (Minister of Health) as a public official is responsible for the stewardship and leadership of the health sector in Uganda and the 3rd respondent Attorney General as the principal legal advisor is mandated to represent the government in all legal proceedings by or against it.

According to the affidavit in support of their case, the company’s secretary Ms Damalie Tibugwisa states that sometime in March 2019, it was widely reported that four people died and 262 suffered from mental illnesses, vomiting, headache, high fever and abdominal pains in communities of the Karamoja region after consuming called ‘the Super Cereal Corn Soya Blend’ supplied to these communities by WFP.

She further states that after a committee comprised of the first and second respondent, the Uganda National Bureau of Standards and the Uganda Police conducted preliminary investigations about the matter and resolved that the supply of the impugned food be suspended.

“On March 20, 2019, the applicant (Anti-Counterfeit Network) wrote to the first respondent demanding accountability for its acts and or omissions regarding the procurement and supply of the impugned food but the 1st respondent ignored the said letter. A letter to the 2nd respondent requesting to be availed with the laboratory tests results but in vain,” Ms. Tibugwisa stated in her affidavit.

Adding… ”Towards the end of May, the 2nd respondent issued a public statement indicating that the laboratory tests had revealed that the impugned food had bacterial contamination, traces of yeast, mold and potential cancer-causing aflatoxins.”

Ms Tibugwisa says that these findings/laboratory tests are public information to which the applicant and other Ugandans have a right to access but the respondents have concealed this information from the public.
Court documents indicate that despite establishing the contamination of the impugned food, the 2nd and 3rdrespondents have not reprimanded, sanctioned or caused the prosecution of the 1st respondent, its agents or servants or other persons culpable for the supply of the toxic food yet it is an act of condonation.

“The manner in which all the respondents have dealt with this issue of the supply and distribution of the impugned food to the people of Karamoja has been quite mundane and casual which depicts a disregard for the right to life and wellbeing of the people,” Ms. Tibugwisa said.

Adding..“As a result, the affected and bereaved people and families from the Karamoja region have been left without any legal redress,”

Through their lawyers of Muwema & Co. Advocates, the company wants the three respondents be held accountable and redress and atonement for the grave injury and damage suffered by the affected people of Karamoja.

They are also seeking for an order of mandamus They are also seeking for an order of mandamus to compel the respondents to produce the laboratory test reports/findings if any from investigations carried out by 1st, 2nd respondents and Uganda Government Analytical Laboratory in respect of the impugned food.

They further want an order of mandamus compelling WFP to produce the food traceability Audit report showing the source, quantity and quality of the impugned food before it was imported and distributed in Karamoja.

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