AFRICA – Food safety has become a very key discussion, pushed further by the emergence of Covid-19. It has seen retailers shift their approaches to controlling food safety hazards within their business premises in order to ensure the safety of their food.
The sector professionals converged to have a dialogue on the same in a platform provided by the Food Safety & Quality Summit.
The collocutors were Collins Kamol, EHS Manager, Quickmart Supermarkets; Wambui Mbarire, CEO, Retail Trade Association of Kenya; Veronica Idowu Alaba, Director, Vellamet Integrated Services; and Doreen Lugalia, Managing Consultant, Mantra Consulting.
Covid gave clarity on two retail sectors immediately the government set out the first protocols; essential & non-essential retail with food and supermarkets being classified as essential retail.
Quickmart Supermarket, the second leading retailer in Kenya after Naivas, realized increased sales when Covid first hit owed to panic buying, only for the sales to decline when people became more skeptical of the issue. The curfew and lockdown also caused delays in the supply chain.
Fresh fruits and vegetables have become a very big sector and any diseases that are food related have everything to do with hygiene.
Therefore, the Retail Trade Association of Kenya (RETRAK), an 8year old association of retailers with supermarkets occupying the major membership proportion, has put in place measures to ensure the safety and traceability of their sources.
Within the last seven months, the association in collaboration with Rockefeller Foundation have invested in a project where they are implementing KS 1758, a system that is supposed to certify food safety within the system.
The Horticultural Crop Development (HCD) have gazetted the standard and will start enforcing it.
However, Wambui Mbarire, CEO, RETRAK was of the opinion that the standard should be rolled out in a structured manner starting right from the root.
She added that the supermarkets must then drive it to ensure that it also caters for the pocket challenge of many Kenyans.
“The agreement with HCD is that supermarkets have no capacity to test. You do what you can with your naked eye and then you supply yourselves with the produce. The HCD will come into your stores, pick samples for testing and come back in quest for supplier details. They will then head to the supplier market,” Wambui highlights.
The HCD should not hold supermarkets liable for defective products but instead assist them on dealing with the source.
Wambui enlightened that 70% of consumers shop in the informal sector hence they plan on rolling out the standard there too.She added that challenges like product analysis costs are expected to arise which stirs the need to bring back Cooperatives, now termed “Farmer Groups” to cushion such expenses.
“Implementing food safety is going to be tall order for many years. We need to look for a way to simplify it,” she notes.
Shockingly, the RETRAK CEO revealed that the KS 1758 standard meant for the domestic market, was written by people who have been serving the export market.
She reiterated the need for a review with an eye to the domestic market as some of the requirements are preposterous for the intended market. Also, the implementation should be broken down to start at the most basic structures of safety prior to building on to it.
E-commerce and food delivery
Food outlets that outsource their delivery services should ensure adequate training of the personnel to ascertain food safety so as to protect their brand.
“Food businesses must ensure the sanitation and proper labelling of the carrier bags. There should be a checklist for checks to ensure that the same food safety culture you are observing in the restaurant, is the same one the delivery contractors are adhering to. Any arising food safety issues is traced back to you not the delivery company,” stated Veronica Idowu Alaba, Director Vellamet Integrated.
Veronica added that the delivery personnel have to be tracked for accuracy and for speed as there is a set minimum range of deliveries across states.
The shelf life study of the product needs to be conducted within the delivery locality to ensure the customer receives wholesome and safe food at any given point and time.
For credibility, food outlets should partner with reputable companies that have the passion for food safety, familiar to the customers.
The riders should be subjected to regular food handler checks. There is lack of control post-production and within the establishments.
According to Doreen Lugalia, Managing Consultant, Mantra Consulting, all food in delis have to be ready by 10 am and held at warming temperatures.
“What temperature has that food been maintained at? Has it been maintained at 750c from the time it was prepared? Aspects like those need to be really looked at,” she questioned.
Doreen felt that the aspects of the handlers of food and their control are what needs to be addressed more.
EHS Manager, Quickmart Supermarkets, Collins Kamol informed that International Finance Corporation (IFC) had taken them through a GLOBALGAP Programme which is a farm assurance session aimed at ensuring the company gets the best produce from suppliers.
He further revealed that RETRAK educated the Quickmart personnel on the standard KS 1758 which he felt was a good progress to ensuring the retail sector can compete at global levels.
“We are also keen to just address the entire HACCP, traceability system. Central to this is the concept of how then do we fully implement the general prerequisite programs that Veronica scratched on and Doreen emphasized on,” Kamol concluded.
International players starting to come into the market has really started to up the game of food safety.
A key example is carrefour which could not find a farmer who had basic minimum requirements of any food safety standards when it kicked off its operations. The retailer had to sit down with the farmers and direct on their various requirements.
Supporting small sector players
It’s perceived to be a very expensive process to get a consultant to be able to support Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) in implementing basic hygiene practices.
However, there are affordable programmes like the Technoserve Programme, which have very informative and interactive sessions.
“We need some form of sponsorship to be able to get to the growing enterprises to enable them implement the basics. It’s a matter of the involvement of the authorities, so to speak, and to support that facilitation,” said Veronica.
In her closing remarks, Mbarire stated, as a matter of fact, that people with platforms to air issues on food safety should talk and shout as loudly as possible, to quicken the pace with which consumers start demanding safe and quality food products.
“Once the demand is there, the retailers and farmers will have to rise to the occasion and we’ll have moved the needle on the food safety circle,” she expressed.
Watch the panel discussion on YouTube at FOOD AFRICA TV via this link; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4dU74U2pWZM&t=567s
About the Africa Food Safety & Quality Summit
The 2021 edition of the Africa Food Safety & Quality Summit was held virtually from Nairobi, Kenya. It brought together more than 1300 delegates from more than 70 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas.
The Summit, which was addressed by more than 40 speakers from the private sector, Government ministries and agencies, NGOs and development institutions and academic and research institutes across Africa and beyond, highlighted the opportunities, challenges and trends in the management and practice of food safety, quality and compliance in Africa.
With plans to be an annual conference and expo, the Summit was sponsored by Ishida, Bruker, Minebea Intec and Bureau Veritas – some of the leading providers of various technologies and services to Africa’s food and agriculture industry.
The event’s strategic partners included; Fresh Produce Consortium (FPC), Consumer Goods Council of South Africa, Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS), Ministry of Health Kenya, Kenya Institute of Food Science and Technology (KIFST), Kenya Institute of Public Analysts of Nigeria (IPAN), Kenya Dairy Board (KDB), Food Science and Technology Platform of Kenya (FoSTeP-K), Retail Trade Association of Kenya (RETRAK).
The next edition of the Summit is slated for June 22-24, 2022, with plans to host a hybrid event, with a physical presence in Nairobi, Kenya and a virtual platform to enable attendees from across Africa to attend with ease.
More information about the Summit can be found on the website www.foodsafetyafrica,net/summit