Reports that meat sales in Kampala have gone down following the ongoing joint operation between the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) and the Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) to ensure compliance to hygiene standards among butcheries have once again raised the spotlight on standards in the meat industry.
The mandate of UNBS is to promote competiveness of local industries by developing standards and certifying quality products. In addition, UNBS enforces standards to protect the health and safety of consumers and the environment against dangerous and sub-standard products.
Therefore, it is important to appreciate that the scope of standards is quite broad and applicable in a wide range of activities from manufacturing of explosives to the buying and selling of meat, which has become topical following a crackdown on non-compliant butcheries in Kampala.
As such, in executing our mandate, we work with a number of government agencies to enforce standards and protect the health and safety of consumers.
In 2017, the UNBS, through the technical committee on food and agriculture, developed standards on hygienic requirements for butcheries to allow butchery owners, their managers and regulatory authorities to ensure that the meat on the market is of good quality and that it does not compromise the health and safety of consumers.
As per the guidelines set in the standard, the use of insecticides, which was the major issue in the ongoing crackdown, is forbidden.
In addition, butcheries are expected to have cold storage facilities such as fridges and deep freezers for preserving meat, insect screens and traps to deal with the issue of flies.
The main walls of the premises should be constructed of waterproof and washable material to maintain hygienic conditions in premises.
Every butchery should have a source of hot water for purposes of cleaning equipment and surfaces.
These are some of the many requirements that apply to butcheries as minimum standards required to satisfy the consumers' need for safe, healthy and hygienic meat and meat products.
The 2006 Meat Ordinance Act gives powers to KCCA and local governments to carry out licensing and inspection of meat products. As the custodian of the standards in the country the UNBS has signed a memorandum of understanding with KCCA to carry out joint operations to protect consumers from products that may compromise their health.
The inspection of butcheries was one of such market surveillance operations. As the lead agency in the operation, KCCA was the custodian of all the communication related to the subject.
That said, the issue of hygiene standards in the meat industry is a national issue guided by the national standard to which I earlier alluded. UNBS will continue to engage relevant local governments to widen enforcement of hygiene standards in butcheries beyond Kampala.
Last year, UNBS also signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Kampala Butchers and Traders Association (KABUTA) for cooperation in the areas of compliance to the food safety standards, weights and measures requirements, training of the butchers.
The MoU also allows members of KABUTA to participate in the development of standards and codes of practice relevant for improving the quality and safety of meat and meat products.
We shall continue to work with butchers and relevant government authorities to promote standards and hygienic practices among the butcheries through adequate sensitisations campaigns to ensure compliance to hygiene standards in the meat industry.
The consumer protection mandate is broad and requires a concerted effort from a number of government agencies and the public.
UNBS will continue to work with relevant stakeholders in developing sector-specific standards and promoting quality of products on the market.
Mr Muhwezi is the head of public relations at Uganda National Bureau of Standards