Nigeria, one of the most populous and the first economic powerhouse of the African Continent, has reached a decisive milestone in improving food safety and protecting African consumers from food-borne diseases.
The decision was made when a critical stakeholder meeting took place in Abuja, from 6 to 10 June 2016, to validate a new proposed Food Safety, Quality Bill and an institutional reform for the management of food safety in Nigeria.
The feat adds to the many activities undertaken by FAO to provide technical support and capacitate African countries for food security.
This development constitutes good and promising news on the improvement of food safety on the continent to share with the international community, as it prepares for the Codex Alimentarius Commission meeting where delegates from 188 countries will converge in Rome to discuss food safety and food standards, from June 27 to July 1, 2016.
The Abuja meeting included 95 senior government representatives from all important federal Ministries involved in food safety, representatives of States’ governments and representatives of the private sector, of consumer organizations and of the civil society.
With the new proposed Food Safety and Quality Bill and Institutional reform, mandates of all organizations involved in food safety will be better clarified, better coordinated, avoid overlaps and duplication for a more effective and efficient national food control system.
The National Food Safety Management Committee (NFSMC) will be responsible for the coordination of food safety. It comprises representatives of the federal government, the states, the private sector, academia and the consumer organizations would participate.
The work is the result of a two-year work of intense consultations undertaken by a team of Nigerian and FAO experts with the financial support of the FAO Technical Cooperation Programme (TCP).
“Effective national food control systems are essential to protect consumers. They are also critical in enabling countries to increase country food and agriculture commodity trade in regional and international trade by enforcing their compliance with safety and quality standards and to ensure that imported food stuffs conform to national requirements”, said Jean Kamanzi, FAO Regional Food Safety and Quality Officer for Africa.
The Nigerian Food and Drug Authority (NAFDAC) will provide the Secretariat to this Committee which will report at the highest level authority to a Council. The Council would be composed of the five most important federal Ministers for food safety: the Ministers for Health, Agriculture and Rural Development, for Industry, Trade and Investment, for Environment and for Science. The Council also includes one representative of the private sector and one representative of consumer associations.
Without undermining the lead role played by the Minister of Health who will remain the custodian of the Food Safety and Quality Bill, it has been decided that the Council will be chaired by the Vice-President to ensure that food safety is coordinated at the highest level and receives the necessary attention to policy and legal matters.
If passed, the proposed standalone new Food Safety and Quality Bill and the institutional reform will bring fundamental changes in the way food safety is managed in Nigeria and will lay down the foundation for a modern, efficient and effective national food control system for Nigeria. In future this may lead to a National Food Safety Commission.
The proposed changes will bring better protection for the 180 millions of Nigerians against foodborne diseases and will ensure that Nigerians and populations of neighbouring countries engaged in close food trade with the economic powerhouse of the continent will have access to quality food that is safe and nutritious to allow them to live a healthy and productive live.
SOURCE: Food and Agriculture Organization