19 December 2012

East Africa: EAC to Harmonise Food Standards

THE East African Community (EAC) Partner States want to harmonise standards on processed infant food so as to promote related trade and protect consumers.

the harmonisation of infant food standards was considered priority in order to meet the current requirements to improve food safety and protection of consumers' health

This sector covers poison-prone foods that are targeted in quality inspections by regional standards agencies which and quite often uncover problems regarding imported baby food from other countries.

The plan to harmonise these standards was announced during a four-day workshop that opened yesterday in Kigali, bringing together regional standard bodies, regulatory agencies, manufacturers and the private sector.

Rwanda Bureau of Standards (RBS) is a Coordinating Secretariat in standardisation activities of EAC in the area of nutrition and food for special dietary uses.

According to RBS, the harmonisation of infant food standards was considered priority in order to meet the current requirements to improve food safety and protection of consumers' health, especially children, who are the most vulnerable.

"This will promote trade as safe processed food meeting the harmonised standards will have easy access to markets within the region," said RBS Deputy Director General, Patrice Ntiyamira.

It was noted that traders are inconvenienced when their products are double tested for standards by both the standards body of the country of origin and the destination country due to non harmonised standards.

This double testing often brings about reluctance among traders to export or import processed food, according to RBS.

Through harmonisation, the products would be tested only in the country of origin and then have free access to all the markets within the region.

Some cases of poisoned food have been noticed in EAC countries.

Speaking to The New Times, participants emphasised mostly the case milk containing melamine.

Melamine is a toxic industrial chemical illegally added into food products to increase protein content, which experts say causes reproductive damage, bladder stones and kidney inflammation.

Damien Ninakobedetse, from Burundi Bureau of Standards, said his country is dealing with the melamine-in-milk issue, especially in the milk imported from China.

Chinese milk with melamine was also found on Tanzanian markets.

"We realised that milk containing melamine was entering our markets, we have since banned it and confiscated what was on the market and destroyed it," said Mathias Missanga, from Tanzania Bureau of Standards (TBS).

Participants will agree on common parameters on standards harmonisation, and come up with draft standards to be considered and implemented in the future.

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