A farmer inspecting his maize.
Delegates attending the opening of the Africa Regional Food Safety conference in Kampala are pushing for formulation of uniform standards for food and agricultural products meant for export in the region and globally.
Speaking at the meeting which will be on until the 13th of September, Dr. Bayo Fatunmbi, the Acting World Health Organisation Representative to Uganda said they recently did an assessment of the food safety situation in the country and generated evidence that they will use to evaluate the gaps that can be filled in the country to be able to match with globally acceptable standards.
Apart from trade, Bayo says standards are urgently needed to avert the ninety one million cases of food-borne illnesses and 137,000 deaths related to food contamination recorded annually.
The meeting gathered delegates from forty nine countries that are members of the World Health Organization and Food and Agriculture organization coordinating Committee for Africa. Speakers expressed concern about aflatoxicin contamination that has been associated with products such as maize, groundnuts and beans from Uganda.
However giving his remarks, David Livingstone Ebiru, the Uganda National Bureau of Standards Executive Director said they have developed a strategy to deal with food contamination which has been the biggest challenge with food safety.
He says they are formulating multi-sectorial taskforce with officials from both the ministries of trade, agriculture and health such that they create awareness about what must be done by local farmers if their products are to be of acceptable standards.
Ebiru says there are currently more than a thousand standards developed in the area of food and agriculture and are now creating awareness such that farmers and dealers in agriculture produce get to appreciate these and in the end get to voluntarily have people take their products to UNBS for safety assessment without waiting for the regulator to go them.
He says this continental meeting comes in handy for them to brainstorm on strategies that can work.
Meanwhile, Uganda is the new coordinator for the regional committee and Ebiru says their bigger aim is to have products from East Africa gain more access to the bigger African Continental Free Trade area.