UGANDA – Over 250 representatives from 49 African nations and other international partners are attending a week-long hybrid conference in Uganda to examine strategies for enhancing food safety throughout the continent.
Uganda currently serves as the Coordinator and Chair of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)/World Health Organization (WHO) CODEX Alimentarius Commission, Coordinating Committee for Africa (CCAFRICA).
Earlier in the year, Uganda took the title from its neighboring country Kenya which has served in the position for the past 5 years.
The ongoing Conference is being Chaired by Mr. Hakim Mufumbiro from UNBS as Coordinator of the CODEX Coordinating Committee for AFRICA (CCAFRICA).
The delegates will be racking their brains on issues such as, ‘Food Safety and Quality Situation in Africa’, ‘Draft Regional Standard for Dried Meat’, ‘Draft Guidelines for developing Harmonized Food Safety Legislation for the CCAFRICA Region’, and ‘CODEX Alimentarius Work Program for African and Status of Implementation of the CODEX Strategic Plan for 2020–2025’.
Established by the FAO and WHO in 1963, the CODEX Alimentarius Commission is tasked with creating international food standards to advance food quality and safety, safeguard consumers’ health, and promote fair trade practices throughout the food value chain.
188 countries presently make up CODEX’s membership, together with the European Union (EU). The CODEX Contact Point in Uganda is operated by the Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS).
The Ministry of Health, which chairs the national CODEX committee, the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF), the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives (MTIC), the National Drug Authority (NDA), the Dairy Development Authority (DDA), the Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA), the National Water and Sewerage Corporation (NWSC) and Government Analytical Laboratory (GAL) are additional significant Ministries, Departments, and Agencies that participate in food safety control systems and CODEX activities in Uganda.
Others include representatives from the private sector, academia, research, civil society, and consumer organizations.
WHO reports that consuming unsafe food continues to have a considerable negative influence on public health in the African Continent, resulting in more than 91 million illnesses and over 137, 000 fatalities each year.
“To effectively address the food safety challenges, there is a need to strengthen National Food Control Systems that are forward-looking, people-centered, and cost-effective, covering both the formal and informal food sectors.
“Future improvements in Food Safety and Public Health will also largely depend on how sectors manage to collaborate using the One-Health-approach,” said Dr. Bayo Segun Fatunmbi, from the WHO Uganda Country Office.
Regional Blocs join forces
The majority of African economies, which are heavily dependent on food and agriculture, must implement robust food safety control systems to promote trade and consumption of safe food, both within the Continent and beyond, according to Mr. David Livingstone Ebiru, the Executive Director of the Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS).
To allow seamless trade inside the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), he urged the African Partner States to implement and harmonize pertinent food safety standards on the principle of “One Standard, One Market.”
The engagement comes at a time when the African Regional Blocks such as The East African Community (EAC), the Common Market for East and Southern Africa (COMESA), Southern African Development Community (SADC), InterGovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) are joining forces to create a single, expansive market under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
Mr. Charles Musekuura, the Chairman of the UNBS National Standards Council (NSC), pledged to continue prioritizing CODEX and other International Standardization Activities in the Bureau’s Work Program given that UNBS is both a Member of CODEX, International Standardization Organization (ISO), African Regional Standards Organization and other Regional Standards Bodies.
To date, Uganda stands as the only country in Africa, which has co-hosted two CODEX committee meetings in the last 10 years.