By Folasade Akpan
Stakeholders on Wednesday appealed to the National Assembly to pass the National Food Safety and Quality Bill 2019 into law.
They made the appeal in Abuja at the validation workshop on the Draft National Policy on Food Safety and Quality and its Implementation Plan 2023.
The Director and National Coordinator, Food and Safety Programme, Federal Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, Mr John Atanda, said that the policy being validated needed the necessary legislation to help its implementation.
According to him, the bill will take care of the existing gaps in food safety quality and also gave responsibility to all tiers of government.
“This bill is supposed to complement the policy to give it more strength and a powerful transformation to food safety in Nigeria.
“Based on the provision of this policy when it was first developed in 2015, it was set to modernise Nigeria food safety structure.
“So there was a need to have a legislation to back it up and the National Food Safety and Health Committee that was established by the provision of this policy developed the National Food Safety and Quality Bill.
“It went to Federal Executive Council and was approved and then transmitted to the National Assembly.
“It passed through all the legislative process and was sent to President Muhammadu Buhari for assent but was not assented to before the expiration of his administration.”
Speaking on the essence of the policy being validated, he said that it was to provide an overarching framework for food safety and security in the country.
Atanda said that it would address the issue of regulation for those that it is intended for.
The Director, Food and Drug Services, Mrs Olubunmi Aribeana, in an address, said that in Nigeria, research had shown that over 200,000 people reportedly died from food poisoning and contamination annually.
Represented by Mrs Adeola Olufowobi-Yusuf, Head, Food, Chemical Cosmetics and Water Safety Division, she added that Nigeria needed a more robust and comprehensive policy to strengthen the food safety and quality sector of the country, hence the need for the validation.
“The Federal Government in January 2015 in partnership with the critical stakeholders in the food sector, inaugurated the National Policy on Food Safety and its Implementation Strategy (NPFSIS).
“This was to provide the government with the needed framework and to modernise the national food safety control system in line with international standards.
“Based on government determination to modernise and strengthen its National Food Safety Control and Management System in line with global best practices and standards, the ministry and its partners have reviewed the existing National Food Safety Policy document, to address the identified inherent gaps.
“This version will provide the framework for upgrading national capacity to develop and operate an integrated food safety control system to achieve more effective collaboration and coordination between agencies responsible for food quality control system in Nigeria.”
The Executive Director, Nigeria, Resolve to Save Lives, a NGO, Mrs Nanlop Ogbureke, hoped that the document would provide an opportunity and the potential to work on the health outcomes of our country.
“The collaborative and the multisector angle to pushing forward this policy is very critical, so we hope that with validating this policy, we will be able to push together to ensure that the bill gets signed.”
For the Assistant Director, Food Safety and Applied Nutrition Directorate, NAFDAC, Mrs Felicitas Anyanwu, implementation of the policy is key to achieving the set targets.
“There are so many policies but implementation is very important so at NAFDAC we are always ready to collaborate towards the implementation of any policy that is within our mandate.
“Also, we promise to do all to ensure that food safety is taken very seriously in Nigeria.
“Safeguarding the public health is important and food safety is key to achieving that”, she added.
The USAID, Advancing Nutrition Project, Technical Advisor, Mr Micheal Eveshoyan, said that the project works to ensure food safety and nutritious foods are available for all Nigerians for productivity and resilience.
“We say that no food is nutritious if the food is not safe therefore we say that food safety is also a paramount in advancing nutrition.”
According to him, it is hoped that once the policy is validated, the action plan would be followed to ensure that Nigerians have a document to protect what they eat. (NAN) www.nannews.ng
Edited by Isaac Aregbesola