Minority Leader of the main opposition Sierra Leone People's Party has demanded for collaborative inter-ministerial involvement in the implementation and education processes of the food and Feed Safety bill for it to be successful.
The Food and Feed Safety Authority Act of 2017 will ensure the safety and quality of food and feed in order to protect the public against health hazards.
In her contribution, Hon. Dr. Bernadette Lahai stressed the need for inter-ministerial commitment to provide directions in the implementation of the bill.
"The ministries of Agriculture, Fisheries, Health and Works, Housing and Infrastructure, Trade and Industry, Transport and Aviation and Education, Environment Protection Agency and National Protected Area Authority should work together and not look at one another or give excuses to do the work. They should also make sure that there is no ambiguity or inter-personal conflict. I encourage you all to come together and do the work effectively without excuses," she urged.
Hon. Dr. Lahai said the enactment of the bill will be a means to an end of the country's food, feed and drinks that are produced in the country for access in the international market.
Chairman of the Health Committee, Hon. Dr. Abdulai Sesay, said food consumed by people helps them to grow healthy, hence the need for proper mechanism to be put in place in order to protect the food people consumed.
"When one consumed food that is not good, it might lead to unhealthy growth. Successive governments have established institutions such as the Environment Protection Agency and the Standards Bureau for the protection of its citizen. The bill we are currently debating has many MDAs attached to it but could not ascertain properly who is doing the best in terms of implementation," he said.
He claimed that many products were being imported into the country without the correct information as to who is producing or manufacturing them.
He emphasized the need to have a regulatory body that will monitor the importation of foodstuff into the country because millions of dollars is being lost to other countries.
Also, Chairman of the Fisheries Committee, Hon. Edward Stile Jengo, spoke about the establishment of an authority to help reduce food -borne diseases in the country, as well as minimizing outbreaks.
Chairperson for the Lands Committee, Hon. Rosaline J. Smith, also added her voice to the debate saying, "The processing and handling of our country's food should be looked into properly when the Authority is created."
Earlier presenting the bill for debate, Minister of Health and Sanitation, Dr. Abubakarr Fofanah said consumers all over the world were taking unprecedented interest in the way food is being produced, processed and marketed.
According to him, they were increasingly calling on their governments to accept greater responsibility for food safety and consumer protection.
He stated that according to a fairly recent food-borne disease surveillance reports conducted by the U.S CDC, 818 food-borne disease outbreaks were reported globally in 2013, and that recently, some 13,360 morbidities/illnesses were also reported.
"Findings of this nature call for tighter food safety control systems to be put in place to protect public health because there is an inverse relationship between strong food safety laws and the incidence of food borne illnesses," he said.
He noted that food safety control measures are further undermined by institutional weaknesses such as lapses in surveillance; monitoring and the absence of a central competent authority to effectively harmonize and oversee all the different facets of essentially the same vehicle.
"One of the major recommendations contained in the Law Reform Commission's sub-committee on food safety report was for the establishment of a food and safety Authority in Sierra Leone as a statutory, independent and science based body with the responsibility to coordinate and implement all functions relating to food safety regulation including inspection, food borne disease surveillance, monitoring, laboratory service and education of consumers on food safety issues", he said.
Minister Fofanah maintained that if enacted, the bill will represent a major step in implementing the recommendations of the Law Reform Commission and keep the country at par with neighboring countries like Ghana, Gambia, Ivory Coast and Nigeria.