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Food safety policy 2021 bill validation at top gear

Counties as well as new governance institutions will now be the drivers of ensuring safety in the multibillion food industry in the country.

The draft Food Safety policy 2021 and the Food and Feed Safety Coordination Bill currently under validation  has proposed the establishment of an office of Food and Feed Safety Control and County Food and Feeds safety control coordinating committee.

Validation workshop on food and feed safety. Photo by Wangari Ndirangu

Currently the committee that has been handling the Food Safety Bill of 2013 has lacked a legal mandate to handle food safety matters.

According to Chairman of the taskforce appointed in 2018 to review the Food Safety Policy of 2013 Dr. Patrick Amoth , lack of coordination of agencies in the food industry has been hampering enforcement of the safety measures.

In his statement during the validation conference workshop held in Kabete, Dr.Amoth noted that inadequate food safety is a significant contributor to the burden of disease in developing countries including Kenya, and should be addressed as the food system develops.

Value chains complained that for a long time there has been a lack of a central body to direct and coordinate all Government   activities in the field of food safety and that food quality and safety systems have been controlled by various agencies using separate laws.

“The heavy burden of foodborne diseases imposes substantial economic losses to individuals, households, health systems and entire nations. Economic losses as a result of rejected food exports due to shortcomings in food safety are also often very significant,” said Dr. Amoth who is also Acting Director General in the Ministry of Health.

Speaking during the validation conference, former Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture Hamadi Boga said the previous food safety laws put more emphasis on food exportation than domestic, but the draft law seeks to ensure that domestic food is also taken care of and that the role of the County Governments and other competent authorities are well stipulated.

“The Bill, if implemented, will ensure consumers get access to safe food and that international trade will not be hindered. Kenya is on the right track in ensuring food safety but there is need to continually improve especially on streamlining the informal sector which has been a big challenge”, he noted.

Boga added that as the Country looks into addressing the Food Safety Bill, it is important to ensure that the informal sector is involved considering they feed a huge population and are important stakeholders as far as food security is concerned.

Kenya is signatory to the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Protocol with the objective of making sure that food is safe and that trade is not hindered.

The former PS who has been in the frontline in drafting the bill concurred that currently , everyone has been doing their own thing but now the draft bill that seeks to create an office of the food and feeds safety control to coordinate these activities is timely.

The Policy and Bill are currently in the validation stage, where members of the public are free to give their comments until February 25, 2022. After validation the bill will be presented to the Cabinet through the office of the AG before it is forwarded to Parliament for debate.

The inter-Ministerial task force, which is leading the validation of this draft, has so far subjected the Bill to several stakeholders including common interest groups, Industry players and development for public participation.

They have also conducted a benchmarking visit to the United States of America by representatives of the Executive and Parliament in November 2019 and a similar visit to Denmark representing the European Union in November last year.

The objectives in both visits was to experience the Food Safety control systems with Kenya’s trading partners.

Access to sufficient amounts of safe and nutritious food is key in sustaining life and promoting good health as well as ensuring food security. The policy envisages an effective and efficient food safety system aimed at securing access to safe and quality food for all.

By Wangari Ndirangu

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