The Director of the National Standards Laboratory and National CODEX Focal Person, Steven Mambu, has stressed the need for speedy passage of the National Standards Act to ensure food safety regime in Liberia.
The National Standards Act is a proposed law that seeks for the establishment a National Standards Body of Liberia that will be called the Liberia Standards Authority (LiSA).
Mr. Mambu said the passage of the Act will provide an essential legal and administrative framework for the establishment of the Liberia Standards Authority as an autonomous government agency to promote and protect food safety standards.
He spoke to the Daily Observer recently in an exclusive interview during a one day workshop on the application of the CODEX Trust Fund. The one-day meeting brought together food safety stakeholders from the public and private sectors with support from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
After frantic efforts and collaboration by key national stakeholders and international partners, Liberia drafted validated the Food Law and the National Standards Act in August 2017. It aims to ensure the country’s active participation with the CODEX Alimentarius Commission, a body established with the mandate to develop food standards and to facilitate food trade, under the Joint Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
Liberia is one of the countries in the world that is yet to legislate a food law and control system. This poses treat to the health of the citizens and limits the incomes of smallholder farmers and micro enterprises as relates to better market opportunities.
According to Mambu, the National Standard Act has been passed by the Lower House but is still lingering before the House of Senate for concurrence.
“But I strongly believe if the lawmakers can pass the National Standard Act, it could build a strong foundation of supporting critical components of food processing as well as facilitate more trades,” he said.
According to him, Liberia through the National CODEX Committee (NCC) has done a lot since 2017 to establish a technical working group and that the NCC had held meetings to contribute to some standard works.
The NCC is a body with the primary responsibility for ensuring that Liberia has a national positions to CODEX meetings and guiding national policies on food standard, safety and international food safety issues.
“We have been able to represent Liberia on a regional level where we made some significant contributions. We have had a consultative meeting with some stakeholders to raise the importance of food safety in the country,” he added. “Since CODEX was relaunched in Liberia, we have been able to raise food safety as a national agenda that should be inclusive,” he said.
Although the national CODEX person outlines achievements, the low capacity of the National Standard Lab according to him is seriously impeding Liberia’s progress to trade internationally.
“No matter how many trade agreements we signed, we must ensure standards on the food quality in order to have market access. This can only happen if the standard lab is fully equipped to provide quality services, which in return will open market access for local businesses. Currently, the standard lab testing is at a minimal level due to limited capacity due to lack of consistent budget support,” he said.
Mambu added since the lab launched in 2017, it is yet to reach its full potential to operate.
“The issue of trade is a critical component to drive the economy and this country cannot be isolated from the rest of the world. And Liberia as a member of the WTO has identified agriculture as the key element of economic growth. In ensuring that agriculture can be used for economic growth food that leaves the country must be of international standards so ensuring food safety is very critical to this process,” he added.