National Codex Committee Training on Standard Setting Underway

By Sailu Bah
Two consecutive capacity building workshops for the members of the
National Codex, Sanitary and Phytosanitary  Committee (NCSPSC) toenhance their participation in standing setting processes of three
international organizations is underway at the Kairaba Beach Hotel
from the 16 – 19 December 2014.
With financial support from the African Union Interafrican Bureau for
Animal Resources (AU-IBAR) and the technical support of the Pan
African SPS Organisation (PAN-SPSO), the training is aimed at creating
understanding and increasing the participation of NCSPSC members in
the work of Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC), World Organisation of
Animal Health (OIE) and International Plant Protection Convention
(IPPC). According to the organisers, the members will also be guided
by the PAN, SPSO Project staff to develop a national Strategic Plan for
mainstreaming the activities and results of the latter’s project as
well reinforce capacities to put in place a sustainable SPS agenda.
In his welcoming and introductory remarks at the opening session, Dr
Omar Touray, Chairperson of NCSPSC, said this is the first of two
training workshops financed by the US Codex Office in Washington US
Department of Agriculture (USDA) to enhance capacity of members and
institutions in terms of enabling them to be better prepared in their
participation in standard setting processes at the international
level. He said the participants are drawn from a broad base of
stakeholders.
Mr. Malang Fofana, Principal Programme Officer at the National
Nutrition Agency (NaNA), representing the national Codex Contact Point
(Modou Cheyassin Phall), outlined the main objectives and expected
outcomes of the two workshops to strengthen the capacities of NCSPSC.
In his speech, Dr. Raphael Coly, Project Coordinator of PAN-SPSO, SPS
expert and trainer, thanked the USDA and Codex Office for funding the
workshop and for their continuous financial and technical support to
African countries to effectively participate in Codex work and build
effective national Codex offices.
“African countries need more capacity building training support for
data generation to back African positions in codex standards setting,
specifically for setting maximum residue limits (MRLs), maximum levels
(MLs), etc.,” said the AU-IBAR official.
He added that more importantly there is an urgent need to strengthen
the Codex committees by setting well-structured national bodies and
coordination mechanisms to ensure their effective functioning.
He gave a brief overview of Codex in which he noted that statutes of
the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC) were approved in 1963 marking
the starting point of the organisation’s work as a joint FAO/WHO
Commission. He added that in 2013, the Commission comprises 186
members including 53 African member countries and a number of
observers such as the African Union and six other regional economic
communities in Africa.
Dr. Coly elaborated on the mandate of CAC and how Africa is
represented in this international body. He underscored the need for
Africa to have one voice at the level of Codex and which is recognised
and supported by the AU.
He urged the Gambia Government to become a signatory to the IPPC which
will be advantageous to the country and to provide financial support
to the national Codex Committee to effectiveness and sustainability.
On behalf of the FAO Representative, Madame Mariatou Njie said
consumers have the right to expect that the food available on domestic
markets is safe and of the expected quality, adding that FAO works
with governmental authorities, with local industry and other relevant
stakeholders to ensure that this expectation is met.
Madame Njie elaborated on FAO’s food safety and quality programme
which, she said, provides independent scientific advise on food safety
and nutrition which serves as the basis for international food
standards, develop institutional and individual capacities for control
and management, policy development, facilitate global access to
information and housing the joint FAO/WHO Codex Alimentarius
secretariat.
The FAO official underscored the importance of food safety as a public
health priority as well as an essential step to achieving food safety.
“Effective food safety and quality management systems are key not only
to safeguarding the health and well being of people but also to
fostering economic development and improving livelihoods by promoting
access to domestic and international markets,” said Madame Njie.
She said FAO is a leader in the development of global food safety
initiatives and translating these into country level action. And that
it supports member countries in developing capacities to effectively
manage food safety and quality as well as to accessing domestic,
regional and international markets.
The FAO official also reiterated the call for the Gambia government to
accede to the IPPC (Convention) which is an international plant health
agreement which aims to protect cultivated and wild plants by
preventing the introduction of and spread of pests into endangered
areas and cooperating to control pest of plants and plant products.
Delivering the official opening statement on behalf of the Secretary
General, the Head of Civil Service and the Minister of Presidential
Affairs, Madame Rohey Bittaye Darboe said it is empirical that the
government of the Gambia is very much concerned with the safety and
quality of food produced, imported and consumed in the country.
She cited the Food Act 2005 which was reviewed to pave way to the
enactment of the Food Safety and Quality Act 2011 leading to the
establishment of the Food Safety and Quality Authority (FSQA) in 2013.
“This Authority is under the purview of the Office of the President
and is responsible for overall official control of the safety and
quality of food, water, beverages and animal feed, along the food
chain from production up to its supply to the final consumer,” she
said.
Madam Darboe said the Authority is expected to contribute to consumer
health and safety, facilitate trade and control fraudulent and
deceptive food marketing, labeling and advertising practices.
The representative of the Secretary General said the National Codex
Committee guided by their Strategic Plan that is due for review in
2015 has contributed tremendously to the development of the national
food control system in The Gambia by providing policy advice to
government, and has participated in the development of Food Safety and
Quality Act 2011. The National Codex Committee, she added, has also
mobilized resources for the review of the National Plant Protection
System and National Plant Protection Services.
“The Committee’s new strategic Plan for the period 2015 – 2020 will in
addition to food safety and quality, address animal and plant health
more comprehensively. This will be in line with embracing the concept
of bio-security approach that ensures linkages between food safety,
animal and plant health,” said Madame Darboe.
She said the government acknowledged the support that AU and in
particular the PAN-SPSO Project has accorded to the Gambia in terms of
capacity building to enhance the country’s participation in standard
setting processes of Codex, OIE and IPPC. She also expressed
appreciation for the continued support of FAO and WHO.
Madame Darboe concluded by enjoining the participants to make best use
of the training and ensure that their collective efforts are
translated into action for the benefit of the whole country.