28 February 2014

Gambia: Trade Ministry Strive for High Quality Cashew Nuts and Sesame

The Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF), under the Ministry of Trade, Industry, Regional Integration And Employment, on Wednesday 26th February, 2014, held a day-long workshop on Quality Assurance Framework for Cashew Nuts and Sesame at the National Nutrition Agency (NaNA) in Bakau. The occasion, supported by the International Trade Center, is aimed at ensuring that quality and safety food requirements are met consistently by all stakeholders along the value chain.

It well defined the responsibility and accountably of all stakeholders along the value chain, stating the 5 Cs, Commitment, Competence, Consultation, Coordination and Cooperation.

The Senior Adviser of Quality at the ITC, Mr. Khemraj Ramful, speaking at the forum, said in the framework of a mission to The Gambia, a number of consultations and field visits were arranged and that these consultations and field visits to the farmers/producers, factories and companies of the SMEs had more importantly enabled an in-depth assessment of their levels of knowledge and enforcement of food safety plan.

He said the observations and recommendations to make up for the stakeholders' deficiencies concerned mainly, the situations in the fields and the ability or expertise of the conformity assessment institutions like the food control laboratories to handle their task according to the recommended international standards.

"Food safety is the assurance that food will not cause harm to the consumer when it is prepared and / or eaten according to its intended use and food quality refers to the totality of features and characteristics of a product that bear on its ability to satisfy stated or implied needs.

Food safety is a vital part of food quality and it cannot be compromised since it has an effect on health. While certain quality aspects like size, shape and colour can be visible to the naked eye, the safety ones are not visible.

Food safety should therefore be integrated in a quality assurance national system, which is referred here as the quality assurance framework (QAF)., focusing on the prevention of problems, not simply curing them," he said.

Mr. Seedy Fofana, a Food Scientist of the Food Technology Services of the Department of Agriculture, in his presentation said, adequate, safe and quality food is a vital element for the achievement of good health and acceptable level of health, noting the food safety and quality control systems in Gambia Is aimed at protecting the consumer against unsafe, impure and fraudulently presented food that may be injurious to the health of the consumer and also ensure fair food trade. With the rising liberalization of agro-industrial markets, he said, the assurance of food quality and safety has become a major concern.

Mr. Fofana said the responsibility for food safety and quality control in the country is shared among different ministries and agencies and there are wide variations in the expertise and resources available between the key stakeholders. He said: The Gambia has enacted various laws and regulations over the years to regulate and enhance food safety to preserve the health of the public and facilitate international trade requirements. However, there is no unified policy and a single food law in The Gambia that regulate issues of food safety.

Various ministries and sectors involved in food safety and quality control have their own pieces of legislation that govern their operations according to their area of focus." Mr. Fofana said The Food Safety and Quality Authority is an authority established under The Food Safety and Quality Act, 2011 to control the quality and safety of food and feed placed on the domestic market as well as those meant for export.

This legislation, he added, provides for the setting up of a food safety and quality regime by instituting structures and control mechanisms.

The Quality Enhancement Taskforce later met to discuss the current implementation status of the project relating to quality enhancement and to review the Role and Terms of Reference (TOR) of the Taskforce and Sustainability Mechanisms.

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