There is a need for improved food safety standards if the country is to penetrate the competitive foreign markets.
That was the central message during a three-day food safety training for food business operators and regulators in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture animal industries and fisheries.
The training comes at a time when Kampala has a not so decent record of food safety.
In 2021, the Kenyan Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA), banned maize from Uganda because it contained mycotoxins, particularly aflatoxins and fumonisins, which cause cancer.
In 2018, the Uganda National Bureau of Standards developed a food safety standard known as ISO 22000:2018 for Uganda’s commodities to be able to fetch a better price, but many people in the food business do not follow it.
During the training, Martha Byanyima, the Chief of Party, for Trade of Agriculture Safety and Efficiency Programme in East Africa, noted that access to sufficient amounts of safe food is key to sustaining life and promoting good health, as well as poverty eradication and economic development.
“To penetrate European markets, Ugandan traders should conform to the set standards for food exports. We call for competence and confidence among food business operators, especially in food handling practices to promote hygiene,” Byanyima said.
According to government statistics, as high as 40 per cent of crop harvests in the country are lost due to poor post-harvest handling that food processing and storage fall under.
Speaking during the function, Fred Bwino Kyakulaga, the Agriculture state minister, noted that it is everyone’s responsibility to produce food which is safe for consumers and is competitive in local, regional and international markets.
“Food safety issues start right from the farm, where you farm from and how you manage the farming enterprise affects the safety of the food produced. Agricultural practices and post-harvest techniques such as transport and storage, if not done well can lead to food contamination and spoilage which makes the food unsafe for consumers,” Bwino said.
Bwino assured Ugandans that the country will soon achieve food safety if agrochemicals, fertilizers, and veterinary drugs, used in food production are genuine and of good quality.
“Food should be produced from land which is free from pollution and animals are fed on uncontaminated or un-polluted feed or water,” Bwino noted.
In his speech, the State Minister for Agriculture in charge of Animal Industry, Bright Rwamirama, called upon the public to handle and store food under suitable conditions that prevent fungal or bacterial growth and aflatoxin contamination.
“We should all avoid re-purposing agrochemical, fertilizer or veterinary drug packaging materials to carry or store farm produce/food like milk, grain, meat and water. Proper disposal of condemned food or dead animals which is deemed unfit for human consumption is strictly observed,” Rwamirama said.
In 2018, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming June 7 as World Food Safety Day responding to the global burden of foodborne diseases.
The resolution notes that there is no food security without food safety, especially in a world where the food supply chain has become more complex.
Food security, as defined by the UN’s Committee on World Food Security, “means that all people, at all times, have physical, social, and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food that meets their food preferences and dietary needs for an active and healthy life”.
The government is committed to achieving food safety for the population and for trade with a focus to help prevent, detect and manage foodborne risks, contributing to food security, human health, economic prosperity, agriculture, market access, tourism and sustainable development.