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Contact:
FoodAfrica Secretariat
Natural Resources Institute
The University of Greenwich at Medway
Central Avenue
Chatham Maritime
Kent ME4 4TB
United Kingdom

Email: Keith Tomlins
Tel: +44 (0)1634 883360
Fax: +44 (0)1634 883567
Web: www.nri.org

 

Summary of the main food safety and quality issues arising from FoodAfrica
1. The importance of food safety issues on livelihoods and consumer health needs to be higher on the political agenda of countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
2. Food safety management systems in sub-Saharan Africa need to be able to respond to both global and domestic challenges
3. There is a need to identify food safety hazards of main concern to consumer health and livelihoods and where they occur on the food chain. It was recommended that a multidisciplinary approach based on the HACCP system be used..
4. There is a need to quantify potential economic benefits resulting from improvements in food safety and consumer health.
5. Appropriate food safety legislation needs to be introduced in consultation with all players in the food production, processing, processing and catering sectors.
6. There is a need for national food safety control systems which can be supported by appropriate food laws, enforcement and support (for example accredited laboratories).
7. Consumers, food handlers and processors need to be educated in food safety issues. Food inspectors need appropriate training so that they can contribute effectively.
8. It is necessary to form and/or strengthen consumers’ associations and integrate them at both local and international levels
9. There is need to develop appropriate evaluation procedures for food safety hazards through provision of accredited analytical laboratories.

The International Working Meeting considered that food safety and quality management is becoming increasingly important at both the national and international levels. Access to export markets may be limited where producers are not able to comply with international food safety requirements (for example FAO/WHO Codex) and those of importing countries. At the national level, improvements in food safety and consumer health may be hindered by the need for appropriate food safety and consumer health policies, fragmented institutional systems , effective food law and enforcement, food producers and caterers working under unsanitary and unhygienic environments and staff who have minimal education. Consumers may not make the link between ill health and unsafe food.

Concerns over food safety have been compounded by the increasing urbanisation which can lead to stresses on the emerging urban infrastructure. Livelihoods and consumer health, particularly the urban poor and young, may be at risk if concerns over food safety are not addressed.

Considering national food production systems, it was recommended that food safety should be considered using food a food safety management systems approach, for example hazard analysis and critical control point (HACCP) and as part of this Good Agricultural Practice and Good Manufacturing Practice. It was considered important to identify the main food safety hazards, where they occur in the food production and marketing chain and their potential risk to consumer health. A multi-disciplinary approach to hazard identification, based on risk assessment, was proposed. This should include collection of data on occurrence of food hazards (for example, pathogens), and the conditions and handling practices that lead to their presence in food systems. To support the case for further investment in food safety interventions it was suggested that there was a need to calculate the potential economic value resulting from improved food safety and consumer health.

It is suggested that there is a need to define appropriate food safety legislation, which respond to both global and domestic challenges. Access to information on international food standards was considered difficult for many individuals and organisations in sub-Saharan Africa. Enforcement of food standards was an issue their may be limited resources for inspection, enforcement, and access to accredited laboratories that provide reliable food safety information. Sensitisation of consumers and food handlers about food safety is important. The informal food processing sector (for example, street food vendors) should receive specific attention with respect to legislation since it provides a significant proportion of food consumed in many of sub-Saharan Africa’s cities. Coordination between local authorities and food standards and regulatory bodies was considered necessary. In support of the required regulatory framework, it is important to ensure that national staff are trained and that their working conditions are sufficient to reduce the risk of corruption.

Education was considered critical in the area of food safety by the International Working Meeting. There is a need to improve consumers and processors understanding of food safety issues. There is a lack of information concerning the availability and suitability of lower cost, safer local alternatives for use by poor people and whether consumers are willing to pay more for safe food and if this can be used as an incentive for producers and processors to produce safer foods. Education programmes should also include cost-benefit comparisons and take into account cultural preferences and patterns of behaviour. It was considered important that education in food safety should be addressed throughout society, for example in schools, households, workplace and in food processing and catering businesses.

Consumers’ Associations were considered to play important roles in addressing food quality, prices, safety and environmental concerns. Currently there are few, consumer associations in sub-Saharan Africa but their numbers are increasing. It is considered that these associations could potentially play an important role if supported and integrated at both local and international levels.

Urbanisation can lead to environmental changes which can in their turn affect food systems which can rapidly evolve in an unregulated situation. Food quality and safety in particular may be affected. Food consumption habits and food demand may also change as a result of urbanisation. However, little is known or documented about this in many sub-Saharan nations. It is useful to determine consumer perceptions, barriers and responses to emerging new foods. This information can help with the development of food supply and catering businesses that can adapt in response to changing pattern of urbanisation. Needs assessment must be used to inform research and consumer reaction must be taken into consideration before products are promoted.

The overall summary of FoodAfrica can be downloaded here.