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Nigeria partners US to safeguard food consumption

by Haruna Gimba
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By Muhammad Amaan with agency report

The Nigerian Government and the United States of America have partnered to inaugurate four inter-sectoral Technical Working Groups (TWGs) on food safety.

The TWGs were inaugurated by the Federal Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, FMHSW, in collaboration with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), in commemoration of World Food Safety Day in Abuja.

The initiative aimed to curtail the importation of food and drink daily by Nigerians.

Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Professor Muhammad Ali Pate said this year’s theme for the 2024 World Food Safety Day, reminded government of the delicate balance that sustains the vital aspect of lives.

“This year’s theme, ‘Food safety: prepare for the unexpected,’ is a clarion call to action, a reminder that vigilance is the guardian of our sustenance and unforeseen events that can compromise the integrity of our food supply.

Represented by the Permanent Secretary of the ministry, Daju Kachollom, said Pate added that, “In the face of daunting challenges, our resolve remains unshaken. Preparedness is not just a watchword but our shield against the unpredictable tides of adversity.

“It is with this spirit that the ministry of health and social welfare, in concert with our esteemed stakeholders and partners, has meticulously revised the National Policy on Food Safety and Quality and its Implementation Plan. Today marks a significant milestone as we unveil this pivotal document.

“The policy, rooted in the One Health approach, addresses a spectrum of critical areas. It encompasses the principles of risk analysis, the issue of emerging contaminants within our food chain, and the establishment of an integrated foodborne disease surveillance and response system.

“Moreover, it sets forth benchmarks for the safe handling, marketing, and sale of food throughout our nation.”

In her remarks, Programme Manager, USDA Foreign Agricultural Service, USDA-FAS, Kelly Scavella, said: “USDA-FAS is partnering with the Federal Ministry of Health and Social Welfare and other Nigerian stakeholders to help build food safety systems that are relevant to consumers, producers, and regulators.

“The TWGs have been set up to modernize Nigeria’s food safety regulatory framework in line with international best practices to address food safety concerns and facilitate the development of a strong agriculture and food industry.

“Over the last decade, the Nigerian government has implemented important changes to bolster food safety by examining and enhancing critical components of the national food safety control system. Harnessing the expertise of the TWGs aligns with the core mission of World Food Safety Day, emphasizing the importance of collaboration and innovation in safeguarding food and feed safety.

As we commemorate this global initiative, the launch of these TWGs underscores Nigeria’s commitment to ensuring safe and reliable access to food across Nigeria.”

In preparation for the passage of the Food Safety and Quality Bill into law, FMHSW, in partnership with the USDA, the Food and Agriculture Export Alliance (FAEA), the University of Missouri’s Africa Food Safety Initiative (AFSI), and the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG), convened stakeholders for a prioritization workshop in December 2022, which led to recommendations to create TWGs comprised of experts from the public, private, and academic sectors to support the development of science-based regulations.

In 2023, the National Assembly passed the Food Safety and Quality Bill. While the 2023 election and competing, priorities delayed the passage of the bill, the competent authorities continued to advance the modernization agenda by re-convening stakeholders for an expertise coordination workshop in November 2023.

The workshop aimed to scout the expertise needed for the TWGs and set an agenda for capacity building for both the TWG members, leaders, and influencers of the food value chains.

As part of World Food Safety Week, USDA, in collaboration with Nigerian Federal Ministry of Health, the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG), and the U.S. industry-led group Food & Agriculture Export Alliance (FAEA), conducted a workshop and launched the Technical Working Groups, June 6–7 in Abuja, Nigeria.

The workshop convened in the U.S. and nominated Nigerian technical experts, including critical Nigerian food safety regulatory experts from both the public and private sectors, to create technical working groups, led by the Federal Ministry of Health and Social Welfare.

The creation of the following four TWGs was approved by the Federal Ministry of Health and Social Welfare in January 2024.

The TWGs are focused on risk-based regulations, risk analysis in food and feed safety; Food and SPS (Sanitary and Phyto-Sanitary) inspection; traceability and supporting technologies; education for all stakeholders; and research.

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