19 February 2013

Tanzania: Dar es Salaam Earn Praise Over Food Quality Control

The world, including Tanzania, is under threat in the wake of massive circulation of substandard food, drugs and water products.

The quality of these items is compromised, as dealers of the products eye super-normal profits at the expenses of people's health. Approaches employed by many governments to control quality of the products seem to have not born anticipated fruits, as dealers invent new and perhaps more sophisticated technologies to exports food and drugs -- from one country to another and across domestic markets.

"In fact, the situation is getting out of hand... governments and regulatory bodies globally, must join forces if they really want to eliminate substandard and fake food and drugs from markets," noted food expert in a recent special interview. However, as the world is crying foul over spoilt food and drugs markets, Tanzania is praised for installing strategic drives to check quality of food and drugs -- imported and locally manufactured.

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) recently showered praises on Tanzania government's efforts for controlling the quality of food, medicines and water, components which he described "as crucial when it comes to the protection of public health."

"I am really impressed by the performance of Tanzania in this area," IAEA Director General, Yukiya Amano, said during his visit to the laboratory facilities/equipment of the Tanzania Food and Drugs Authority (TFDA) in Dar es Salaam. The atomic energy chief, who was on a two-day visit, visited some few projects supported by IAEA and met various stakeholders involved in the implementation of related undertakings.

The agency top official commended TFDA's efforts in the control of food and drug safety and quality using sophisticated and modern laboratory equipment. He said the world population was growing very fast, a situation which increases demand for food, water, drugs and other related consumables. "Under such situation, the need to put in place effective controls on the quality of these items is inevitable.

Public health must be protected," stressed IAEA director general. He cited TFDA as exemplary partner which has been very supportive in the agency's initiatives (at domestic level) in controlling quality of both imported and locallymanufactured food, water, medicines, to mention but a few.

"My agency will continue extending more financial and technical support to Tanzania in these areas to ensure effective protection of public health. Cooperation, on Tanzania side, is very important," said IAEA chief. Deputy Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Dr Seif Rashid said the government through TFDA has managed to develop a comprehensive system for control of food, drugs, cosmetics and medical devices in the context of protecting public health.

However he attributed the achievements to support extended by various development partners, acknowledging IAEA's support to TFDA especially in capacity building (combined equipment and training of staff). "IAEA will always be remembered as one of the development partners who contributed toward the success story of TFDA since its establishment almost 10 years ago.

The ministry of health is proud of the successes attained by TFDA," noted the deputy health minister. But TFDA has registered significant strides in the past nine years -- including certification of its management system to ISO 9001: 2008 since 2009, ranked as the Best Managed Public Institution for two consecutive years (2010 and 2011) during the public week celebrations organized by President's Office (Public Services Management).

"The other success story and which is of significance to IAEA chief today is the WHO Prequalifications of our Medicines testing laboratory, in January 2011 and accreditation by SADCAS to ISO 17025: 2005, of our food testing and microbiology laboratories in September 2012," said TFDA Director of Laboratory Services, Charys Ugullum, in her introductory remarks as IAEA boss visited TFDA laboratory facilities.

She described the developments as critical indicator of the competence of TFDA laboratories and liability of analytical results internationally, noting that "IAEA contributed to these achievements and we thank you for your generous financial, technical and market support."

According to TFDA director of Laboratory Services, IAEA has supported TFDA in two projects -- the first was designed to use nuclear related techniques in ensuring food safety by controlling pesticide residues and contaminants such as metallic contaminants and aflatoxins.

The second project focused on monitoring veterinary drug residues in foods. For the first project, Ugullum said TFDA received a total of 241, 892 dollars for the procurement of laboratory equipment and chemicals worth 112, 250 dollars, fellowships worth 111, 150 dollars for training six analysts each for three months in Germany, Austria and the UK, including one week scientific visit to an accredited laboratory in Germany.

Based on this support, TFDA capacity to analyze food samples for mycotoxins, melamine in milk, metallic contaminants and food additives has increased from an average of 30 samples during 2008/09 to more than 1,000 samples during 2011/2012, noted TFDA official.

TFDA Director General, Hiiti Sillo said despite achievements recorded, the institution faces many challenges, including inability to identify and quantify pesticide residues in food due to absence of laboratory equipment called "Gas Chromatography coupled with Mass Spectrophotometer (GMMS). The authority relies on qualitative results from test kit which may not be adequate, says Sillo.

Absence of service and maintenance engineers/ experts for laboratory equipment in Tanzania is another major challenge facing TFDA, forcing the authority to hire technicians from neighbouring Kenya at the cost of 25,000 dollars annually. However, in the wake of these stumbling blocks, TFDA remains determined and committed to protect and promote public health by ensuring safety, quality and effectiveness of food, medicines, cosmetics and medical devices.

"In fact, we aspire to be the leading African regulatory authority in ensuring safe, quality and effective food, medicines services," said TFDA director. The government has stepped up substantial efforts to eliminate circulation of substandard and fake food and related products -- in the face of increasingly sophisticated techniques deployed by dishonest dealers. Recently, TFDA impounded 1.5 tonnes of counterfeit food items worth 7m/- in an extensive and strategic crackdown which was carried out across Arusha City in wholesale and retail outlets.

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