Developing and maintaining national food safety control systems: Experiences from the WHO African region
AbstractThe establishment of effective food safety systems is pivotal to ensuring the safety of the national food supply as well as food products for regional and international trade. The development, structure and implementation of modern food safety systems have been driven over the years by a number of developments. These developments include: a reorientation of quality assurance protocols; emphasis on the development of integrated and holistic food safety systems with a farm-to-table approach; increased
recognition of the respective roles of the different stakeholders along the food chain; increased food trade coupled with obligations under trade agreements; and advances in the control of foodborne hazards. At its core, a modern food safety system includes enabling food laws, policies, regulations and standards; mechanisms for coordination; operational food inspection and laboratory services as well as national information,
education and communication programmes. While progress has been made in some countries in the WHO African Region at modernizing their food safety systems, many others are still grappling with the basics for development of effective food control systems. The traditional food control systems in a number of African countries do not provide the concerned agencies with a clear mandate and authority to prevent food safety problems. Effective food control in a number of these countries is undermined by a number of challenges including limited awareness about food safety, inadequate enabling policy, outdated legislation and regulations; inadequate coordination; and inadequate capacity and resources for food safety. This paper reviews the components of a modern national food safety control system and examines efforts at strengthening national food safety control systems in the African Region. It includes
experiences from countries that have made efforts at strengthening their national food safety control systems in view of current developments. The paper further discusses some of the challenges of food control systems in the Region and prospects for improvements. It concludes by suggesting the way forward for improving national food safety control systems in the Region.
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