By Prossy Nandudu
Civil society organisations (CSOs) have asked the Government to fast-track the newly established Food Animal and Plant Health Authority to streamline food safety enforcement.
Information from the health ministry says food safety challenges continue to escalate each year, with Uganda registering about 1.3 million cases of foodborne illnesses annually, accounting for 14% of all cases treated in most health facilities.
Towards the end of May 2023, Cabinet resolved to establish the Food, Animal and Plant Health Authority.
CSOs, led by Food Rights Alliance executive director Agnes Kirabo say the authority should also be tasked with the overall responsibility of ensuring food safety.
They argue that the fragmentation of the food safety mandate across various ministries and agencies has failed the management of food safety concerns.
For example, UNBS’ mandate of developing and enforcing standards for food is limited not to override the authority of other agencies like the Dairy Development Authority for dairy products and Uganda Coffee Development Authority for coffee and fish and meat regulated by designated departments in the Ministry of Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF).
“As it stands, the mandate for food safety currently falls under several ministries, including the Ministry of Local Government (MoLG), MoH, MAAIF and MTIC, this fragmentation of mandates leads to weak co-ordination of actors, plans, and programs on food safety,” Kirabo said.
She, however, added that for the authority to deliver on its mandate, it should be well-funded and given the sole mandate through legislation.
The message was contained in a joint statement issued by the CSOs as part of celebrations to mark World Food Day on June 7, 2023. World Food Safety Day was adopted in December 2018 by the United Nations General Assembly.