Public Health officers from different health facilities under the ministry of Health and Social Welfare across the country are attending a five day capacity building workshop on food safety inspection procedures mandated by the Food Safety and Quality Authority Act 2011 at the Kariaba Beach Hotel.
According to the Director General FSQA Ms. Zanaib Jallow this training came as a result of a memorandum of understanding signed by her and the Permanent Secretary of Health, in June 2015 on behalf of their respective institutions, to allow her institution to delegate some of their mandate to the Ministry of health inspectors or people with similar qualifications.
She stated that the 2011 Act, mandated only FSQA to do Inspection, registration, certification, licensing of all food and feed establishments. “With this broad mandate we asked the Ministry of Health to identify inspectors we would use so that we train them, after the training they will be given ID Cards so that no one will think that they are impersonators.”
She stated that this training is important because it wants to bring all food inspectors at par, so that there would be no first class inspector or otherwise. The 2011 food act gives the FSQA the authority to train food inspectors before commencing any work.
“Food inspection is now science based from farm to fork and includes all the qualities that make the food unsafe. It is now beyond the normal food inspection, which is based on expiration of the food,” she explained.
She added: “This is purpose why we are training these inspectors of delegated institutions to be of the same standing with the FSQA food inspectors and give them warranty that they work with us. Some of these people have experience in food inspection but at different levels. We want food inspection to reach all corners of the country, this is why we brought all on board.”
She explained that the code of ethics for the conduct states that the food inspectors should comply with the attestation they sign and that when they confiscate food or feed they should enter the quantity, and sign so that if they want to take any action against anybody found wanting the inspector should serve as witness.
She warned that if anybody receives money or kind to set some one free or go scot free that person will be prosecuted or face the Penal Code and can possibly lose his/her job with FSQA.
DG Jallow stated that the reason they want to continue strengthen the capacity of their inspectors is that Gambia is a big importer of groundnut but Aflotoxin is a degrading factor of our exports. “This we would not like it to continue. We want food safety to go beyond the Gambia, simply put our export products need to have the international standard.
According to the DG Jallow these public health officers that are attending the training will closely work with their various Regional Health teams and forward their finding or reports to the Director of Health Services who will forward it to them.
Responding to questions she said the regulatory arm of the Authority will work or build their case and forward the matter to police prosecutors to handle the case because the Act did not mandate them to prosecute on their own.
On the issue of bottles that some vendors fill again with water after use by customers, the DG of Food Safety and Quality Control Authority stressed that even though the sachets are no more they should wash the bottle with hot and soapy water in between uses or refilling the bottle. She stated that people should be hygienic conscious; they should promote food hygienic practices. Think twice before buying such things. We should try and avoid public health incidence.