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GFSP to assess Zambia’s food safety capacity
|A chain of potential risk follows all the food we eat. From the time the food is grown, to the processing facility, to its transportation and to the subsequent handling of the product at stores, markets, restaurants and in-home kitchens.|
The recent recall of imported Zambeef meat that contained aldehyde and formaldehyde imported from the UK, and associated foodborne illness outbreaks related with poor handling standards of food at local markets and restaurants have combined to raise concerns about how safe the food we eat is to consume.
There are bacterial hazards, as well as mercury in fish and vegetables. There also are adulterants in feed and other contamination tied to industrial pollution in our foods. Contaminants are therefore a growing concern.
Since many Zambians are poor and hunger is an ever-present concern, it is incumbent that stakeholders address food safety concerns that may be overlooked by many hungry households.
Recently, the World Bank hosted the inaugural Global Food Safety Partnership (GFSP) pilot in Zambia.
The GFSP is an innovative public private initiative, which brings together a network of international stakeholders from public, private and knowledge sectors to create a new collaborative paradigm for improving global food safety.
This partnership’s novel approach includes targeted capacity-development efforts to help improve the safety of the global food supply chain as demonstrated by improved public health outcomes and improved access to markets.
The permanent secretary Ministry of Agriculture, Dr David Shamulenge speaking on behalf of his minister Hon Bob Sichinga, at the workshop acknowledged the inadequacies of food safety in Zambia.
‘The food safety control system in Zambia is multi-sectorial in approach and is imbedded in various statutes implemented by various government ministries and regulatory agencies. The coordination mechanism among these institutions is currently inadequate resulting in efficiencies in the national food safety control system.’
Highlighting some of the food safety challenges that Zambia is facing, Dr Shamulenge said, simple administrative competencies such as inadequate coordination and communication among the various food regulatory agencies need to be addressed.
Among the more troubling concerns he pointed out were the lack of capacity to enforce food regulations effectively where appropriate statutes and regulations exist.
In addition, he said changes in food production methods have made it more complex and difficult to ensure food safety. He gave the example of the excessive use of antibiotics that could lead to the emergence of resistance of the bacteria in farm animals, which may be a source of infection for humans. Intensive farming practices, he said, also facilitate the rapid spread of potential animal diseases.
‘With global warming and climate change those environment conditions, which are conducive to fungal growth, may increase in the risk of micro toxins present in food crops,’ he said.
Pointing to Globalization and increased international trade, Dr Shamulenge, said there was need for Zambia to be more alert and prepared to ensure the provision of safe food to the nation.
Dr Shamulenge said government is beginning to address these challenges through the review of the Public Health Act cap 295 and the Food Drug Act cap 303.
He said a draft Food Safety bill, is being scrutinized by stakeholders and government is strengthening capacities gaps through training in the organization of official food control, execution of food control and food safety governance.
He welcomed the Global Food Safety Partnership, which he said could not have come at a better time.
Robin Mearns representing World bank country manager Kundavi Kadiresan said ‘The GFSP secretariat has proposed a National Food Safety Capacity Development Needs Assessment to be conducted in Zambia.
Its purpose is to identify a concrete set of activities and priorities that need to be addressed to improve the safety of the food supply chain. It is expected that as part of this assessment, an action plan and a resource budget will be developed.
‘The Partnership would facilitate access to the essential resources and delivery mechanisms that would allow stakeholders, participating organizations and end users to meet the relevant public and private standards and requirements for accreditation. The Partnership would support global food safety efforts, with defined programs that reflect regional and country specific priorities and opportunities.’
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