RWANDA/UGANDA —A pioneering pilot project has been launched in Rwanda and Uganda to enhance food safety outcomes and trade in East Africa.

The project, driven by a multi-sectoral approach (MSA), aims to provide stakeholders with assurance regarding the reliability, security, and trustworthiness of food products and services.

With an estimated budget of US$888,456, the initiative is funded by the Standards and Trade Development Facility (STDF) and brings together various public and private partners, including Land O’ Lakes Venture37, Rwanda Inspectorate, and the Competition and Consumer Protection Authority (RICA).

By utilizing Voluntary Third-Party Assurance (vTPA) programs, the project intends to generate independent assurance for stakeholders.

These vTPA programs, typically voluntary, involve third-party assessors evaluating the security posture of organizations against established standards, frameworks, or best practices.

The specific focus of this project will be on horticulture in Rwanda and fisheries in Uganda. The implementation is scheduled from November 2022 to October 2025.

Johnson Ssubi, Project Coordinator for East Africa, emphasizes the potential value of this partnership, stating, “Through this partnership, the project is expected to generate valuable experiences and insights that can be shared with national food control authorities in other regions.”

The project’s objective is to pilot the use of data from vTPA programs to complement existing national standards and inspection practices, resulting in improved public health and enhanced market access.

Ssubi explains that the project will leverage good practices outlined in various vTPA programs such as GlobalG.A.P and FSSC 22000.

The aim is to increase awareness among regulators and the private sector about the credibility and possibilities associated with vTPA programs.

The chosen sectors for this project, horticulture and fisheries, play vital roles in the GDPs of Rwanda and Uganda, providing employment for numerous individuals.

Stakeholders in these sectors will receive free training on Codex guidelines and principles for the use of vTPA programs.

Moreover, the project will foster dialogue between the private sector and the government to explore the integration of the vTPA approach into the national food control system.

Savio Hakirumurame, Advisor to the Director General of RICA, highlights that the project will enhance awareness of the connection between regulatory bodies and the work of third-party quality assurance programs.

By recognizing the work and data from these programs, regulatory bodies like RICA can potentially reduce the number of inspections required for certification, benefiting businesses in the horticulture industry.

Hakirumurame explains that a recognized third-party vTPA program could lead to a risk profiling system, reducing the number of inspections based on the level of risk associated with businesses belonging to a recognized vTPA program.

The project has the potential to save time and costs for both the government and private sector stakeholders once approved and implemented.

It aims to streamline the certification process by leveraging the credibility and trust established through recognized vTPA programs.

Some of the notable vTPA programs include GlobalG.A.P, SQF Institute, BRCGS, FSSC 22000, and PrimusGFS.

The successful implementation of this pilot project could have far-reaching effects on food safety practices, not only in Rwanda and Uganda but also in other regions.

For all the latest food safety news from Africa and the World, subscribe to our NEWSLETTER, follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel.