By MUHAMMED SAILU BAH
Food Safety and Quality Authority (FSQA) concluded a one day workshop to sensitise journalists and media professionals on the mandate and work of this newly established institution at the National Nutrition Agency (NaNA) conference hall on Saturday, 19 September, 2015.
This training, targeting journalists from the print and electronic media of both the public and private sectors, is sequel to the one held a fortnight ago on the national quality infrastructure (NQI) organized by the West Africa Quality Systems Programme (WAQSP) under the purview of The Gambia Standards Bureau (TGSB).
In her opening statement, Madam Zainab Jallow, the Director General of the Authority, told participants that they are organising this training to sensitise and create awareness among media practitioners on the nature of her institution and the work it does in ensuring that there is food safety and quality in the country.
“The FSQA is the sole national competent Authority, with powers of delegation, mandated to officially control the safety and quality of food and animal feed whether locally produced, imported or destined for export. The work of the Authority is expected to contribute to consumer health and safety, the facilitation of trade and control of fraudulent and deceptive food marketing, labeling and advertising practices,” said Madam Zainab Jallow.
Dwelling further on the functions of the Authority, she listed its responsibilities as having the overall official control of food safety and quality, ensuring that food and feed comply with legal requirements, or where appropriate, with approved codes of good practice, carrying out inspection, sampling and certification of food and feed for import and export when so required, inspecting establishments, processes and products throughout the production and distribution chain, assessing laboratory services in terms of technical capacity to carry out food and feed analysis for official control,
participate in activities relating to standards and technical regulations for food and feed at the national and international levels and ensuring that the adopted inspection procedures are based on risk assessment.
Madam Jallow said before the establishment of the Authority, the inspections on beverages, food and even animal feed were being done by different institutions, but that all these responsibilities are now under the FSQA.
She also stressed that the Authority can still delegate responsibilities to other institutions in both the public and private spheres as well as individuals who are competent in handling the work it is tasked to do.
The FSQA Director General said food safety is more or less science based and involves the monitoring of food from the farm to the plate of consumers. She added that they are using risk based inspections rather than reacting to incidents.
Madam Jallow concluded that Gambia is among the first countries in the region that established a food safety and quality institution which is now being emulated in other African countries.
Mr. Jospeh Ndenn, a food scientist and food safety expert, underscored the importance of the role the media can play in promoting food safety in The Gambia.
“The media is very important in helping to disseminate information to the public, who are the ultimate consumers to enable them to know and understand food safety and quality issues,” he remarked.
Mr. Ndenn elaborated on the issues of food safety and quality.
A presentation on the legal framework of the Authority and the interventions it made in terms of inspections, seizures and closures was made by Madam Mary Johnson, legal expert at FSQA.
In her presentation, Madam Johnson said the establishment and work of the Authority is backed by the FSQA Act 2011.
She explained how the Authority, in its powers of delegation, works with the officials of the ministry of health who are issued with warrants enabling them to conduct inspections of food and food production premises. She dwelled on the processes and procedures they apply as well as the ethics their officials and delegated individuals should uphold in carrying out their work.
Speaking earlier in his introductory remarks, Mr. Ousman Sillah, Media Expert, told the participants that the aim of the workshop is to sensitise them on the issues food safety and work of the Authority so that they will be able to accurately and effectively transmit information to the general public with a view to promoting the production, sale and consumption of safe, quality and wholesome food to the consumers.
“You ought to know, as independent media professionals, how to report accurately on food safety and quality issues and stories,” he added “ food safety is everyone’s business because we are all consumers and we need to consume quality food in order to survive and stay healthy.”
The participants agreed on a set of recommendations in terms of what they can do as media practitioners to promote food safety and quality and what the Authority is expected to do together with them in the discharge of its mandate.