-Food Safety Experts
Food experts brought into the country by the Liberia Agri-business Development Activity (LADA) have said that it is significant for Liberia to have a food law which would enable food safety.
According to Christine Blackledge and Dr. P. Vincent Hegarty, Liberia is not secure in terms of food in general that is being imported to Liberia to consume by citizens, without being tested due to the lack of a food law which determines the safety of the food being imported.
Addressing the media on Friday in Congo Town, both Dr. Hegarty and Blackledge said some of the reasons why Liberia has not implemented the codex standards is due to fragmented policies, lack of education, awareness, lack of coordination, lack of standards and clarity, lack of infrastructure and resources.
According to the experts there is a need to establish standard laboratories that will test every food coming or leaving Liberia to ensure that they are safe for consumption.
She said that the objective of the food safety project is to ensure the successful implementation of codex standards on food safety and to provide standard laboratories that will test every food that is imported into and exported from Liberia.
The codex is a collection of internationally recognized standards, codes of practice, guidelines, and other recommendations relating to foods, food production, and food safety.
Mr. Hegarty of Michigan State University further explained that the country could serve as a dumping ground for unsafe food while food producers will not be able to export their produce for better incomes.
“If we don’t have a food law, Liberia will continue to be a dumping site of unsafe food which is dangerous to the health of Liberians,” she said.
This project will make a difference through the reduction of rotten food imported and will create an environment for food processors and entrepreneurs in food production.
The U.S. based experts maintained that while safe food may be costly, it is important for the country not to allow itself to become a dumping ground for others.
As part of the regional West African body, Liberia has since 2011 been given a standard on food safety that is yet to be ratified.
The experts disclosed that LADA’s interest is to ensure that food produced in Liberia meets international standards, and as a way of helping smallholder farmers ensure that their produce meets acceptable standards while being sold as “Made in Liberia.”
This initiative would also focus on helping Liberians understand the need for their food to meet international standards as well as help to answer questions such as ‘how safe is your food,’ sensitize farmers on the need for them to grow good food, producers to produce good food, government to ensure that citizens have good food, the right of consumers to eat good food, as well as the need for universities to teach about good food.
According to Dr. Hegarty, Liberia has punishment and prevention as the two ‘Ps’ available to it but stresses the need for use of prevention rather than punishment.
The president of the Liberia Manufacturer Association, Theodosia Clark-Wah, also called for the setting up of a special body that will be exclusively responsible for food safety matters in the country.
She frowned on government’s inability to make effective and meaningful use of the National Standard laboratory despite the huge sums of money pumped in by the European Union for the acquisition of the facility.
“We manufacturers are frustrated by the fact that we cannot export our products simply because they do not meet international standards,” she lamented.
Madam Clark-Wah is meanwhile calling on development partners to join the efforts of LADA in ensuring that Liberia meets CODEX standards so that they will be able to export locally processed food for better and higher incomes.
Meanwhile, the Codex Alimentarius Commission is a body that was established in early November 1961 by the Food and Agriculture Organization, and was joined by the World Health Organization in June 1962. It has the goals to protect the health of consumers and ensure fair practices in the international food trade.
It is also revealed that following the founding of the commission, Liberia joined in 1971, but is yet to implement the Codex standards in the interest of citizens and producers.
A consequence suffered by food producers in the country is that they cannot export their products for the lack of evaluations that qualifies them for exporting to other parts of the world.