ZIMBABWE – The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has trained environmental health personnel in Zimbabwe on food safety risk analysis, focusing on risk assessment, risk management and risk communication.

Based on the FAO/WHO Food Safety Risk Analysis Guide for National Food Safety Authorities, FAO and the government of Zimbabwe have trained 311 food inspectors since November 2021.

The training which is part of Zimbabwe Agricultural Growth Program (ZAGP) is funded by the European Union under a project known as Transforming Zimbabwe’s Animal Health and Food Safety Systems for the Future (SAFE).

“It is important to have a well-prepared food inspection service that can achieve rapid and cost-efficient control of hazardous foods,” said Victor Nyamandi, Director in the Department of Environmental Health Services, Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC).

Nyamandi noted that the training strengthened the capacity and skills of environmental health officers in the ministry, on the application of risk-based approaches during food safety inspections, including familiarizing participants with notions of risk, food and hazard combinations.

An environmental health curriculum has been launched to improve food safety knowledge, behaviors, attitudes, and skills of Zimbabwe’s public health officers.

Nyamandi revealed that the curriculum offers standardization to international best practices and includes new practical based modules like emergency preparedness and disaster management, monitoring and evaluation plus meat hygiene and inspection.

Margaret Tawodzera, Food Safety Manager, MoHCC, said that workshops enhanced the ability of inspectors to identify high-risk foods or preparation processes as well as enabling them to focus on those foods or processes that are more likely to cause foodborne illnesses if uncontrolled.

The project also covers development of documents such as the country’s food safety strategy, food establishments’ minimum health guidelines and food recall regulations.

“FAO under the SAFE project is also assisting the Department of Environmental Health Services to develop standard operating procedures, capacity building through procurement of food inspection kits and development of a food safety and port health information management system,” said Basil Mugweni, Project Coordinator from the FAO.

Skills gap in East Africa

FAO in partnership with the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), are also working on long-term strategies to alleviate the skills gap among food safety professionals in East Africa.

With support from the Lloyd’s Register Foundation, FAO, represented by Food Safety Officers Jeffrey LeJeune and Eleonora Dupouy, and ILRI convened a workshop with the Inter-University Council of East African (IUCEA), and regional technical experts to establish benchmarks for undergraduate food safety programmes in the region.

Lloyd’s Register Foundation is an independent global charity with a unique structure and an important mission of engineering a safer world, by supporting high quality research, accelerating technology to application and through education and public outreach.

Following up on a recent survey of stakeholders from the East African Community Member countries comprising of the Republics of Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania, the group mapped core competencies expected of food safety graduates, with specific learning objectives for knowledge; practical, cognitive and interpersonal skills as well as attitude.

These learning objectives were aligned with university courses that could prepare students to meet these objectives.

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