The African Union (AU) aims to institute a food safety authority as well as a Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF), so as to boost trade competence and avert food-borne diseases.
This was announced at the opening of a two-day workshop in Kigali yesterday.
Prof. Ahmed El Sawalhy, the Director of the AU's Inter-African Bureau for Animal Resources, which organised the workshop, observed that the establishment of the authority would boost trade and uplift the living standards of Africans, especially those in rural areas.
The workshop attracted food safety specialists and managers from member states and representatives from regional economic communities and the African Union Commission.
Officially opening the workshop, the Minister of Trade and Industry, Francois Kanimba, said the continent ought to have the food safety body based on the European model but tailor-made for Africa.
"In other parts of the world, such as European Union, there exists the "European Food Safety Authority and a Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed" (RASFF). Our body could be along similar lines but taking into consideration the several food safety, cultural, social, economical, political and even scientific peculiarities of our continent," he suggested.
Kanimba noted that Africa incurs huge losses in international trade due to food safety issues.
The minister pointed out that African food exports are at times destroyed or refused entry into developed markets thus leading to losses.
"This means that any initiative, be it at the AU or individual member state level aiming to improve food safety by particularly complying with international food standards, will not only reduce food losses and increase food availability in the continent, but also promote exports from our countries by taking advantage of international trade opportunities, thereby increasing incomes, prosperity and wellbeing of our citizens," said the minister.
The Food Desk Coordinator at the Uganda's National Drug Authority, Dr Agaba Edson Friday, stressed that food safety has a security aspect as some traders sell intentionally contaminated food. He called for the punishment of such offenders whose interest outweighs people's health.
He further observed that Rwanda was doing well in terms of food safety but called for resolving of outstanding issues.