Projects and events focus on food safety in Africa

A range of projects have been started recently to improve food safety in Africa.

Involved groups are the World Health Organization (WHO), the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and the International Finance Corporation.

The FAO has begun to assess and improve the food control system in Seychelles. A team of food safety experts from FAO will work with local authorities responsible for safe food and other stakeholders, to assess the effectiveness of the national control system, covering the supply chain, including production, distribution, retail, and consumers.

The project falls within the Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Policy Framework for Africa developed by the African Union to spur trade among member states. The end product will be a set of recommendations and an implementation framework.

The €5 million ($5.3 million) two-year project is funded by the European Union and the aim is to boost food safety and phytosanitary control in 12 African countries in the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) region.

Trade project and workshop
Another project, funded by the African Development Bank and implemented by FAO, aims to improve food safety standards at small-to-medium processers in Burkina Faso, Niger, and Senegal so they can better participate in the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

The €1 million ($1.1 million) three-year project is targeting businesses owned by women and young people to improve their competitiveness in cross-border and regional trade. It will involve training and help to remove unnecessary trade barriers by promoting harmonization.

Blaise Ouattara, food safety and quality officer at FAO’s regional office for Africa and lead technical officer for the project, said: “It will not only have outcomes at the individual level in improving the livelihoods of the participants but will help drive major changes in the way food is handled and traded in the region.”

A separate workshop in August gathered experts to talk about the safe trade of food in East Africa.

Organized by the FAO sub-regional office for Eastern Africa and the Northern Corridor Transit and Transport Coordination Authority, the event strengthened the capacity of countries to comply with food safety and animal and plant health standards.

Attendees heard how the cost of complying with some standards can be high but the price of non-compliance is usually more as unsafe food further limits access to markets.

Recommendations for producers were awareness campaigns and training targeting farmers on inputs, Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs), food safety and quality management systems, regulations, and procedures. Supporting the private sector to comply with safety standards, improving security and transport infrastructure in rural areas, and enhancing clearance processes at the border were also mentioned.

Another development is Senegal’s Ministry of Health leading the Healthy Food Market project with support from WHO.

Research in 69 domestic markets revealed deficiencies ranging from the lack of zoning of stalls, which leads to the mixing of products and cross-contamination risks; to insufficient or no maintenance of toilets, which lack running water; to the sale of food on uncovered stalls or on the floor. It found an absence of water points, a lack of regular waste removal services, and a scarcity of cold storage equipment.

A pilot phase in the Grand Dakar market consists of improving facilities and equipment and encouraging compliance with basic food hygiene rules to prevent foodborne diseases. The plan is to extend interventions to markets across the country.

“From now on, it is required to wear aprons, obtain a medical certificate and each seller must have a dustbin. We have worked on sanitizing places where poultry is sold, installing handwashing devices inside the market, and raising awareness among users,” said Mame Diarra Faye Leye, the focal point of the International Food Safety Authorities Network (INFOSAN).

IFC and IAEA efforts
IFC has partnered with the Angola Agriculture Association (AAPA) to expand food safety, certification, and training in the country.

Training in production standards and certification will be delivered to more than 100 members of AAPA, an industry association of large agribusiness firms and rural cooperatives. It will help Angolan producers increase productivity and meet export standards.

IFC has also signed partnerships with Turiago farm, Angola’s second-largest banana farm, and Fazenda Maxi, a large fruit and vegetable retailer.

Earlier this year, an African food safety workshop was held over five days by the IAEA, FAO, and the National Metrology Institute of South Africa.

Almost 300 experts and researchers from 43 countries shared experiences on topics such as preventing food fraud, use of radioreceptor assays, and stable isotopic techniques for veterinary drug and pesticide residues, as well as mycotoxins, toxic metals, and biotoxins. Discussions also covered responding to foodborne illnesses and outbreaks, setting maximum residue limits, and implementing effective food monitoring and surveillance programs.

Participants agreed there was a need to increase food safety awareness among the local public and talked about ways of collecting scientifically reliable data on levels of food hazards.

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