NIGERIA – The Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG), a private sector-led think-tank and policy advocacy group, has urged the National Assembly to pass the Food Safety and Quality Bill 2019 into law for the benefit of the Nigerian economy.

This was during an experts/stakeholders review & harmonisation workshop for the Food Safety & Quality Bill (2019).

Some of the stakeholders that attended the workshop include the Food and Agriculture Organization, FAO, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Federal Ministry of Science and Technology, Federal Ministry of Trade and Investment, Federal Ministry of Health, Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, AGRA, Nigeria Economic Summit Group, NESG, and others.

The Permanent Secretary who was represented by Mr. Taiye Ologun noted that the Food Safety & Quality Bill (2019) is yet to be harmonized for passage into law which necessitated the day’s gathering.

Mr. Ologun noted that Nigeria currently operates a multi-agency food safety regulatory approach which presents significant challenges, including the problem of multi-jurisdiction, which results in loss of consumer confidence leading to rejection of Nigerian foods in the international market.

He reiterated the bill’s importance in ensuring consumer health protection and improving the acceptability of Nigerian foods in the global market.

In her goodwill message, the facilitator of the NESG Agriculture and Food Security Policy Commission, Ms. Gloria Ekpo, said the NESG supports the protection of the lives and health of Nigerians through the provision of safe foods, which is critical in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), promoting good health and well-being, encouraging consumption and safeguarding public health.

“The experts’ review will encourage collaborative rules to ensure food safety. As we dialogue and submit relevant opinions, we should proffer recommendations that will foster inclusion and promote regional and continental drive that ensures food safety,” Ms. Ekpo stated.

Bill to protect consumers’ health

Furthermore, Ms. Ekpo revealed the importance of monitoring and upholding approved standards for the informal sector while encouraging regulators and stakeholders to streamline their activities.

“In NESG, we recognize that advocacy and coordination are key. AGRA and the PIATA partnership have made the process possible. We reiterate our commitment to further collaboration with stakeholders in the government and private sector to foster ongoing reforms of the Nigerian economy,” She stated.

Dr Thomas Arokoyo, who represented the Country Manager of AGRA, Dr Makinde, said that AGRA is supporting an agricultural revolution that ensures safe food and nutrition.

The representative of the minister for science, technology and innovation, Mrs. Abiba Abdulrahman, said that the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 1 in 10 persons suffer from foodborne illnesses and that more than 91 million people fall ill.

Over 100,000 die from foodborne diseases in Africa annually. She noted that the Federal Ministry of Health strongly supports the bill.

In addition, the ministry initiated several other projects, including analysis of food samples sensitization of indiscriminate use of calcium carbide, amongst others, to foster food safety and security.

Ms. Abiba stated that Food safety is a shared responsibility, as everyone has a role to play in ensuring that food is fit for consumption and meets international standards.

While delivering a presentation on the “Overview and Importance of Food Safety & Quality Bill for National, Regional and International Economic Prosperity”, Mr. John Tehinse said that the bill protects the health of consumers from hazards present in food and animal feed.

He added that it helps to define functions and powers of institutions of federal and state governments to ensure food and food safety risks are effectively managed.

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