A critical stakeholders’ meeting was held over the weekend in Monrovia to validate the proposed draft food law and the national standard act to ensure that food and other goods released to the public are evaluated properly to meet international standards of quality and safety.
The proposed food law and national standard act are aimed at protecting consumers from food-borne diseases or the risks attached to the use of fake products.
Both draft bills, when passed into law, will create food safety programs, establish a food inspection service along with adequate laboratories, and promote food safety research. The Bills will also set up an effective standards authority to conduct appropriate tests to ensure companies’ compliance with standard specifications designated for the production of goods and services.
The proposed Liberia Food Authority will have the power to undertake appropriate investigation into the production premises of companies that are engaged in the production of food to establish a relevant quality assurance system, including certification of the production sites and the regulated products.
Likewise, the national standards authority, when established, will be responsible for regulating and controlling local factories making sure that they comply with standard specifications, regulations and guidelines for production, as well as the inspection of goods imported into the country to protect consumers’ health.
Furthermore, when these two bills become law, factories will be compelled to produce quality food and goods that meet international standards to reduce the technical trade barriers usually imposed on products originating from Liberia by trading partners, and to promote industrial efficiency and development.
This means that before any food or product gets on the Liberian market or is exported, it has to meet the standards set by both institutions, which include testing, risk assessment and a certificate of origin indicating that the product is safe for consumption.
The drafting of these bills came after the Liberia Agribusiness Development Activities (LADA) hired two consultants to assess the country’s food industry to identify gaps and determine a way forward.
The experts concluded that food safety programs in Liberia are either non-existent or completely ineffective, and that the country has no food laws and regulations, no food inspection service, and lacks adequate laboratories to test for harmful chemicals and pathogens in foods. The experts’ report also added that Liberia has very few, if any, personnel trained in food safety.
This assessment report came months after the manager of the French-based VS Compagnie, a major supplier of vegetables on European markets, Jean Louis Gruter, visited Liberia on LADA’S invitation to purchase from local farmers.
Dan Gies, LADA Chief of Party, noted that once these two laws are passed by the legislature, Liberia will be required to meet the standard set by the World Trade Organization (WTO), ECOWAS and EU that governs trade.
“In addition, Liberia will comply with the regional and international trade scheme which provides that before goods leave for export, they should be tested and certified to ensure they are safe for consumption. This will include the private sector, as well as their profit intake,” Mr. Gies said.
Marc Abdala, FAO Country Representative, said the Food Law and Standard Authority Act are crucial to Liberia’s trade strategy.
“Achieving this document is very important if Liberia wishes to become a major player when it comes to trade. However, it is very important that all Liberians get involved in this validation process in order to make this law effective,” Abdala said.