Food is essential to life. Humans have evolved to search, produce and handle food in various ways to ensure there is food for life. The food, however, is bound to be contaminated by the environment of origin or the production and handling practices. Standards provide a viable tool for control of food safety threats and also facilitate trade in food. The adoption and use of international standards give equal opportunity for all countries to trade.
As agro-food supply chains continue to extend beyond national boundaries, increasing attention must be given to the impact of food safety standards on developing countries’ export performance. The World Trade Organisation (WTO) Agreements on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) and Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Measures recognise the important contribution that international standards and conformity assessment systems can make in this regard by improving the efficiency of production and facilitating the conduct of international trade. The codex standards, guidelines and codes of practice contribute to the safety, quality and fairness of this international food trade.
As Uganda seeks to expand her agricultural exports, the need for safe products cannot be over emphasised. Agricultural inputs, such as fertilisers, pesticides and veterinary chemicals are used to increase food yields and to reduce the level of damage caused by pests and diseases. Residues of such chemicals in foods have on some occasions raised serious public health concerns.
Verification and certification to food safety standards is a wide and growing trend in the food industry. The Uganda National Bureau of Standards has certified over 850 products in food and agriculture. The number of SMEs that have taken into value addition and using food additives to process soft drinks, fruit juices and juice drinks, amongst other food products is tremendous. Controls on the use of food additives in food production and processing require upgrading to meet the requirements for food safety both locally and in the importing countries with lucrative markets. Consequently, consumers can trust the safety and quality of the food products they buy and importers / retailers can trust that the food they ordered will be in accordance with their specifications.
To raise awareness on food additives and contaminants and address the increasing demand for food regulatory control, Uganda National Bureau of Standards organised a two day conference themed ‘Food Safety and the Beverage Industry: Importance of Drink Safety in a Changing Environment’. This conference created alliances amongst key stakeholders and map the next steps in improving the food safety and regulatory systems in Uganda.