The Lower House on Tuesday approved the basis of a government bill that seeks to establish a national food and drugs authority.
The move paves way for the draft law to be scrutinised in detail at the standing committee level before it is returned to the plenary to be voted on by individual MPs.
The draft law establishing Rwanda Food and Drugs Authority and determining its mission, organisation and functioning was yesterday Tuesday by State Minister in charge of Public Health and Primary Health Care, Dr Patrick Ndimubanzi.
He said that lack of such an institution has hampered proper regulation of food and drugs in the country and poses risks to the health of the population.
Lack of the body also threatens ongoing potential investments and opportunities in pharmaceutical and food industry in Rwanda while the country needs to strategically position itself for international competiveness in pharmaceutical regulation, research, and development, the minister said.
"We are mostly looking at processed food and drug items and the proposed authority will be checking whether they meet minimum standards and whether the ingredients used to produce them are not harmful to health," he told MPs.
Most legislators welcomed the proposal, with many arguing that setting up the authority will help protect Rwandans from substandard food and drugs, which are currently on the market with very little or no control.
MP John Ruku-Rwabyoma said that the law was long overdue because there are so many people out there who go around deceiving the public that they can cure all kinds of diseases.
"Let this law be enacted and let's ensure that the agency has enough staff once it's in place," he said.
MP Theobald Mporanyi wondered whether the law setting up the body will ensure that those who open supermarkets apply for a licence to sell food in their shops.
"It looks like some people are selling drugs, food, alcohol and other items in the same shop and I wonder if that's not a problem and whether this body wouldn't be the right institution to address it," he said.
MP Nura Nikuze agreed with Mporanyi and advocated for setting up an agency that will be in charge of checking whether food products produced or sold on the Rwandan market meet standards for healthy food items.
"The food industry is very broad and I wonder if we shouldn't be specific with what kind of food that the authority will be looking at, especially food items that are processed in factories," she said.
But MP Jean Thierry Karemera said that the responsibility of the proposed body remains too broad under the proposed law and suggested that a parliamentary committee which will analyse the bill should ensure that its obligations are specific enough to avoid duplication of roles by agencies in charge of standards and regulation.