East African Community Commits to Support Food Safety & Codex Standards

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KAMPALA – The high-level regional meeting of the East African Community (EAC), focused on Food Safety and Codex activities within the EAC, has adopted eleven actionable steps aimed at bolstering Food Safety and Codex standards in the region.

Hosted by the Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS), Uganda’s designated Codex Contact Point, this gathering received support from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations and the World Health Organization (WHO), all under the umbrella of the EAC CODEX Forum.

The Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC), established jointly by FAO and WHO in 1963, serves the vital role of safeguarding consumer health and ensuring equitable practices in the food trade.

During this meeting, four policy briefs were endorsed, each offering recommendations for mitigating the current Food Safety challenges that are of paramount concern in the region.

The resolutions of this gathering call for a multi-faceted approach, urging EAC Partner States to engage more actively in both regional and international standard-setting organizations. This participation is vital for shaping effective food safety standards. Furthermore, it emphasizes the importance of increased investment in Food Safety and Codex initiatives. This investment should encompass capacity-building for all stakeholders within the value chain to effectively manage risks and ensure compliance with food standards.

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The meeting also stressed the need to enhance foodborne disease surveillance and monitoring, which involves improving laboratory capabilities, refining data collection processes, enhancing analysis methods, and streamlining reporting mechanisms.

Additionally, the meeting called for the promotion of research focused on Food Safety. Such research should be dedicated to developing novel technologies, methodologies, and best practices that can strengthen food safety management systems and reduce foodborne risks. There was also a call for robust support in the implementation of regional and national food safety policies, frameworks, and strategies. This entails enhancing regulatory mechanisms through the development and enforcement of comprehensive food safety policies, regulations, and standards.

A crucial aspect of the meeting’s resolutions is the commitment to foster regional and international collaboration among Partner States. Such collaboration is expected to enhance food safety practices, facilitate trade, establish partnerships, and promote knowledge-sharing networks. This effort seeks to encourage strong partnerships between the public and private sectors, with the aim of facilitating knowledge transfer, technology adoption, and joint initiatives across the entire food value chain. Moreover, practical strategies for public and stakeholder awareness and education on Food Safety and Codex matters are also to be devised.

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During the meeting, Hon. Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng Ocero the Minister of Health and the Guest of Honour, underscored the critical importance of harmonizing regulatory mechanisms to ensure the safety of food for consumers and the unhindered flow of trade within the EAC region.

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Hon. Francis Mwebesa, the Minister of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives, pledged the government’s unwavering commitment to investing in quality standards and infrastructure. This includes the establishment of food safety laboratories to ensure the accessibility and availability of safe food within Uganda and for export to the region.

While acknowledging the efforts put forth to strengthen food safety in the region, Stella Apolot, Principal Standards Officer of the East African Community Secretariat, highlighted the persistent challenge of Aflatoxin levels. She called for lasting solutions to address this issue effectively.

Daniel Richard Makayi Nangalama, the Ag. Executive Director of UNBS, expressed a firm commitment to ongoing engagement within the EAC region. He affirmed the organization’s dedication to designing and delivering capacity-building activities in collaboration with FAO, WHO, and the CODEX Secretariat. This collaboration is intended to ensure that EAC Partner States can actively participate in and contribute to food safety and the Codex process.

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It is sobering to note that according to statistics from the World Health Organization, unsafe food results in an estimated 420,000 preventable deaths annually. Conversely, safe food consumption is linked to proper nutrient intake and contributes significantly to a healthy life. Safe food production further bolsters sustainability by enabling market access and productivity, which in turn drives economic development and poverty alleviation, particularly in rural areas. Additionally, investments in consumer food safety education hold the potential to reduce foodborne diseases and yield savings of up to $10 for every dollar invested.

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