UGANDA – The Ministry of Finance has issued a warning to government agencies and school administrators regarding the presence of poisonous substances in food items available on the Ugandan market.

In the 2nd Budget Call Circular issued ahead of finalizing the 2024/25 national budget, Ramathan Ggoobi, the Secretary to the Treasury, emphasized the need for all responsible authorities to procure food items only from suppliers certified by the Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS).

The warning comes in response to reported cases of food poisoning, particularly in learning institutions, attributed to aflatoxins, adulterated quality standards, and post-harvest handling challenges of grain and grain products such as bread and maize flour.

Ggoobi advised all government institutions procuring grain and grain products to ensure their suppliers are verified and issued certificates of compliance by UNBS.

Furthermore, Ggoobi announced that the Ministry of Finance will soon issue guidelines requiring all government Accounting Officers to procure certified grain and grain products to uphold quality, health, and safety standards for consumers both domestically and for export.

He stressed the importance of UNBS and the Ministry of Education and Sports in ensuring that private and public schools procure UNBS-certified products.

The Ministry of Health previously raised concerns about the health impact of consuming food contaminated with aflatoxin, citing its association with liver cancer cases in Uganda.

Minister of State for Primary Health Care, Margaret Muhanga, highlighted the significant financial burden on the government, with treatment costs for liver cancer patients reaching millions of shillings annually.

The Ugandan Ministry of Trade, Industry, and Cooperatives developed policies to combat aflatoxin in agricultural produce last year.

This is after Members of Parliament, alarmed by the gravity of the situation, called upon the Health Ministry and the Uganda Cancer Institute (UCI) to devise practical solutions to curb this burgeoning threat.

Last month, the country also launched the Grain Industry Self-Regulation (ISR) guidelines in a bid to enhance consumer confidence and improve the image of the grain industry, making it competitive in the region.  

The initiative, spearheaded by the Grain Council of Uganda (TGCU) seeks to operationalize and implement the ISR guidelines among the key Value Chain Actors in the grain sector.

It is envisaged that the ISR will help in disciplining businesses that fail to meet the set standards and guidelines and also help in improving complaint handling, leading to an efficient and competitive grain sector.

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