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Africa meeting highlights strong commitment of the region to food safety


The National Food Safety Authority of Egypt (NFSA) and the African Union Commission (AUC) convened a meeting for African Food Regulatory Authorities, to advance the regional food safety agenda, as a way to support the region’s food security and trade goals, and in particular to progress the Regional Food Safety Strategy and the creation of the African Food Safety Agency (AFSA). The meeting was held in Cairo from 11–13 October 2023 and brought together food regulatory professionals from 38 countries of the African Union membership. 

The Vice-Chairperson of the Codex Alimentarius Commission Raj Rajasekar highlighted the important contribution that Codex has made over the last 60 years to advancing global food safety and fair practices in food trade interests. He noted that “2023 was not only an opportunity to celebrate the successes in Codex but also to think ahead to Codex in the future as the world grapples with the challenges of climate change, food systems transformation, environmental pressures and sustainability goals”.

Hakim B. Mufumbiro, Regional Coordinator of the FAO/WHO Coordinating Committee for Africa (CCAFRICA), Uganda, provided highlights on the ongoing initiatives in the region to support a harmonized regulatory agenda. He focused on the role CCAFRICA is undertaking to coordinate food standards activities including development of the regional standards that are critical in the effective implementation of the African Continental Free Area. “Countries are encouraged to make use of the existing Codex mechanisms in the region, such as CCAFRICA, in which all the Members in the region are engaged, in order to discuss Food Safety and Quality issues and needs in the Continent” highlighted Mufumbiro. “I call on Member States, Regional Economic Communities and partners to work collaboratively in order to achieve the broader food safety goals and objectives, including fostering the use and application of the Guidelines for Developing Harmonized Food Safety Legislation for the CCAFRICA Region (CXG 98-2022), as well as leveraging the already existing frameworks which support the current efforts to establish the African Food Safety Agency and functional forum of food regulators in the continent” he concluded. 

FAO supported the event by convening a technical session illustrating the use of the FAO/WHO food control system assessment tool in the region under the framework of an EU-funded project, as a basis to improve the food safety collaborative agenda in the region. “Implementing the FAO/WHO Food Control System Assessment Tool contributes to building a regional vision and mutual recognition grounded in a harmonized understanding of food control systems design and operation” said Catherine Bessy, Senior Food Safety Officer, FAO, noting that the tool, which is built on the Codex Principles and Guidelines for National Food Control Systems (GXG 82-2013) also supports countries to comply with internationally recognized food safety standards and increase competitiveness while protecting the health of consumers. Saber Mansour, FAO Project Coordinator, facilitated a discussion in which he invited countries to share their experience and feedback on the assessment process. Youssouf Gaungoo, Officer-in Charge at the Mauritius Food Standards Agency, and national coordinator of the food control system assessment that is taking place in Mauritius right now, explained that “The main benefit of implementing the food control system assessment in Mauritius was to test the effectiveness of our system and consequently show light on the weaknesses so that we may be guided where we need to put resources to improve it”. The assessment will conclude by the end of October with a strategic planning workshop.

Blaise Ouattara, FAO Regional Food Safety Officer, illustrated the features of the FAO food safety programme for Africa. “It is guided by the African Union Food Safety Strategic framework 2022-2036, having its core pillars anchored in Intergovernmental and inter-sectoral coordination, sound scientific advice and evidence, strengthening of national food control systems of Member Countries, and promotion of public and private stakeholder collaboration” noted Ouattara.

The Regional Food Safety Focal Point at the WHO Regional Office for Africa, Lusubilo Mwamakamba, facilitated a panel discussion featuring international partners, and representatives of the AUC and one of the regional economic blocs, the Economic Community for West African States (ECOWAS), that delved into the challenges of food regulatory harmonization efforts in the continent and the support required to enhance enforcement capacities. “It is evident that there are several regulatory harmonization initiatives being undertaken at different intensities, demonstrating a long-standing interest in food regulatory cooperation on the continent” concluded Mwamakamba. “Codex standards provide a valuable science-based resource and should be the basis of harmonization of food standards on the continent. The building of robust food control systems including capacity development in the generation of good quality data and ensuring its availability for use are pivotal to accelerating progress towards harmonization of regulatory frameworks” she reiterated. 

The event marked an important milestone in advancing Africa’s aspirations in food security, food safety and trade.  


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Photo © FAO / Saber Mansour