UGANDA – The Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) has embarked on a collaborative journey with stakeholders in the Acholi Sub-region to tackle the production and sale of substandard goods, with a specific focus on ensuring food safety.

This initiative is part of the ongoing efforts to uphold quality standards and safeguard public health.

In a series of standards sensitization meetings organized by UNBS in partnership with the USAID Feed the Future Uganda Inclusive Agricultural Market Activity (FtF IAM) program in Gulu City, a call was made for policymakers, local government officials, education institution heads, and schools to join forces in combating substandard production and promoting food safety.

Ms. Patricia Bageine Ejalu, the Deputy Executive Director in charge of Standards at UNBS, emphasized that the fight against substandard goods is a collective responsibility.

While UNBS is tasked with developing, promoting, and enforcing standards, Ms. Ejalu stressed that local governments and community leaders also play a pivotal role in monitoring factories and products to ensure compliance with Uganda’s quality standards.

Highlighting the emergence of milling factories in the region, Ms. Ejalu urged local governments to take an active role in evaluating and monitoring such establishments to prevent the proliferation of substandard products in the market.

She emphasized the importance of collaboration between national and local structures to better serve the citizens of Uganda.

The significance of involving all stakeholders in the food value chain was underscored by Ms. Ejalu, who also stressed the need to educate farmers on modern post-harvest handling practices that meet standards.

This is particularly crucial for cereals and grain products, commonly consumed in schools, as improper handling can lead to the spread of aflatoxins, a cancer-causing substance.

UNBS is already working closely with the Ministry of Education and Sports to ensure that the food served in schools meets high-quality standards, ensuring the health and well-being of learners. The support of all education institutions and schools in upholding these standards is strongly encouraged.

Gulu Resident City Commissioner Jane Frances Amongin Okili commended UNBS’s initiative, emphasizing that ensuring food safety is a timely endeavor.

She highlighted the collective responsibility of safeguarding children’s health, stating that the quality of food served to them both at home and in schools must be upheld.

While stakeholders welcomed UNBS’s efforts to promote food safety, challenges of compliance and quality assurance were highlighted.

Anthony Ojok, Chairperson of the School Management Committee (SMC) in Pader District, criticized some grain suppliers for failing to meet standards. He urged for increased quality checks to ensure that products supplied to schools adhere to standards.

Pido Joe Cankara, Director of Studies at Koch Goma Secondary School in Nwoya District, highlighted poor storage facilities in schools as a significant challenge to food quality. He called on school administrators to invest in improving food storage to ensure that learners are provided with high-quality meals.

UNBS recently launched an app with the power to detect non-certified foods and identify reliable certified food suppliers

As UNBS and its partners continue to promote collaboration, sensitization, and adherence to standards, the road to ensuring food safety and quality in the Acholi Sub-region gains momentum, ultimately contributing to the health and well-being of communities and the growth of Uganda’s agricultural sector.

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