The Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) has asked agro-processors in Bunyoro region to adhere to quality food standards by fighting aflatoxins, especially in grain foods.
While meeting agro-processors from Bunyoro in Hoima city early this week, the head of small and medium enterprises at UNBS, Ronald Ahimbisibwe, said they had embarked on a campaign to ensure agro-processors meet the required standards, in order to produce food that is suitable for human consumption.
Ahimbisibwe said UNBS has been training processors on how to improve the quality of food. “This is the only way to go for farmers and processors in Hoima, but the issue of compliance is still a challenge,” Ahimbisibwe said.
He noted that UNBS had also allied with the agriculture ministry to fight aflatoxins in the country’s produce.
Ahimbisibwe said although the country is facing numerous challenges with the quality of food, UNBS had set up mechanisms of improving the quality of food by engaging different stakeholders.
“Currently, we are ensuring that all processors of food are certified. We have a laboratory for testing all the food quality before certifying the processor,” Ahimbisibwe said.
He added that they are focusing on sensitising various stakeholders in the value chain on how to handle the foods right from the farm, something which they expect to impact the product consumed.
“We will be reaching out to key players in the sector value chain. These include farmers, traders, processors and transporters, as well as the consumers. The aim is to put out the information on the practices that should be followed in ensuring the safety of these foods, hence improving quality,” he added.
Vincent Savannah, a grains processor in Hoima city, said farmers need to be sensitized because they are the primary producers of the food.
“Before enforcing the law, UNBS should engage the farmers because the food quality gets compromised in the farms,” Savannah said.
“We are ready to comply with the UNBS directives because we also need quality food. Recently, some processors suffered losses when their maize flour was rejected at Kyangwali Refugee Settlement Camp because it did not meet the quality standards,” Godfrey Katabarwa, another food processor, said.
John Bagada, a food agroprocessor from Masindi district, said the quantity supplied in some supermarkets and hotels is still limited because many of the farmers and processors are yet to cope with the standard desired by UNBS.
He is, however, optimistic that with the regulations and engagements with UNBS, the farmers and processors will catch up.
“UNBS should also reduce the fees paid by food processors before certification as this discourages many from seeking its services,” Bagada said.
What are aflatoxins?
Aflatoxins are poisonous compounds produced by mould/fungi when they invade not-well-dried foods, such as maize, groundnuts, sorghum, soybean, millet, cassava, sweet potatoes, spices and fish, as well as animal feeds, if processed from contaminated foods.
The aflatoxins, which have been linked to liver cancer, can also cause death to people and animals.