KAMPALA – The high-level East African Community (EAC) regional meeting for policy and decision makers on Food Safety and Codex activities in the EAC has resolved to implement eleven actions, in a bid to intensify Food Safety and Codex in the region. The meeting also adopted four policy briefs that provide recommendations on mitigating the impact of current Food Safety issues of interest in the region.
The meeting, hosted by the Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS), which is the Codex Contact Point in Uganda, with support from the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations and World Health Organisation (WHO) under the EAC CODEX Forum was held in Entebbe Uganda and called for the following actions;
- Improved EAC Partner States engagement in regional and international standard-setting bodies to contribute effectively to the development of food safety standards.
- Increased investment in Food Safety and Codex, including capacity building for value chain actors, to manage risks and ensure compliance with food standards.
- Enhanced foodborne disease surveillance and monitoring by improving laboratory capacity, data collection, analysis, and reporting.
- Promotion of research on Food Safety focused on developing new technologies, methodologies, and best practices to enhance food safety management systems and mitigate foodborne risks.
- Support for the implementation of regional and national food safety policies, frameworks, and strategies.
- Strengthening regulatory mechanisms by developing and enforcing robust food safety policies, regulations, and standards to enhance regulatory mechanisms.
- Fostering regional and international collaboration among Partner States to enhance food safety practices, facilitate trade and establish partnerships and knowledge-sharing networks.
- Encouraging strong partnerships between the public and private sectors to promote knowledge transfer, technology adoption, and joint initiatives in food safety throughout the value chain.
- Devising practical strategies to undertake awareness and education of the public and stakeholders along the food value chain on Food Safety and Codex matters.
- Promoting adoption of appropriate technology and innovation to enhance food safety tracking and data analysis.
During the meeting, the Guest of Honour who is also Uganda’s Minister of Health, Hon. Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng Ocero, emphasized the need for harmonisation of regulatory mechanisms to ensure safe food for consumers and smooth trade flow in the EAC region.
The Minister of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives, Hon. Francis Mwebesa pledged government commitment to investing in quality standards and infrastructure like food safety laboratories to ensure accessibility and availability of safe food in Uganda, and exports to the region.
The Principal Standards Officer of the East African Community Secretariat, Ms. Stella Apolot appreciated the efforts put in place to strengthen food safety in the region, but noted that Aflatoxin levels are still a food safety challenge in the region. She thus called for a lasting solution to put an end to it.
As the current Coordinators for CODEX activities in Africa, the UNBS Ag. Executive Director, Mr. Daniel Richard Makayi Nangalama committed to the continued engagement of members in the EAC region through designing and delivering capacity building activities in collaboration with FAO, WHO and CODEX Secretariat to ensure that EAC Partner States effectively participate and contribute to food safety and the Codex process.
Statistics from WHO indicate that unsafe food kills an estimated 420,000 people annually yet the deaths are preventable. On the other hand, safe food allows for suitable intake of nutrients and contributes to a healthy life. Safe food production also improves sustainability by enabling market access and productivity, which drives economic development and poverty alleviation, especially in rural areas. Additionally, investment in consumer food safety education has the potential to reduce foodborne disease and return savings of up to $10 for each dollar invested.