Monday, 3 June 2013

Food safety is just as important as food security in Africa

CI’s Head of Africa Onica Makwakwa looks at the work CI Members are doing around food safety on the continent

On a continent where food security is still a challenge due to limited availability and high cost, food safety may not be prioritised but it is integral to achieving food security.

The recent meat-label scandal, especially in the Southern Africa region, has highlighted just how misunderstood food safety is in a region where food insecurity, political instability, the HIV/AIDS epidemic and other major concerns compete for government attention and priority. 

As such, many African countries are yet to prioritise the regulatory infrastructure required to ensure ‘access to nutritionally adequate and safe food as a right to each individual’ as articulated in the World Declaration on Nutrition.

Consumer organisations, therefore, play a pivotal role in advocating on behalf of consumers and holding those in the food value chain accountable for food safety as well as food security.

CI Members on the continent are doing their part to raise awareness about food safety. For example, in Namibia, Michael Gaweseb, executive director of CI Member Namibia ConsumerTrust, facilitated the testing of meat from supermarkets, raising awareness among officials and consumers alike when they found undisclosed meats including kangaroo in some processed meat products.

While in South Africa, Thami Bolani, CEO of CI Member Consumer Fair, continues to lead the media and public outcry on the growing meat-labelling scandal which is now being investigated by the National Consumer Commission.

Contamination of food -- as demonstrated in the case of aflatoxin contamination -- is another big safety issue which also has repercussions on scarcity.

Aflatoxins are poisonous mycotoxins that are produced by toxic fungi affecting crops in the field and during storage thus making them unsafe for human and livestock consumption. In Africa, aflatoxin contamination is a major cause of post-harvest losses and constitutes a significant threat to food security and livelihoods. Indeed, aflatoxins are a major public health challenge throughout the continent.

Richard Henry Kimera, chief executive of CI Member Consumer Education Trust (CONSENT) in Uganda, joined me at a Strategy Development-Stakeholder Consultation Workshop for the African Union on Partnership for Aflatoxin Control in Africa. Kimera is a voice for consumers with his advocacy and consumer education on aflatoxins in Uganda.

With aflatoxin contamination affecting food safety and subsequently food security in most of sub-Saharan Africa, it is imperative that we draw upon existing research and the work conducted by CONSENT and other consumer organisations in the region to further identify and develop the necessary regional expertise on aflatoxin control.

To join our dialogue on aflatoxin control and other emerging issues of importance to consumer organisations in Africa, please join our new Facebook group. If you already have a Facebook account, you can find us here: (If not, you will need a Facebook account to join this group.) This is a closed group, therefore, to join you need to send a request to or search and request to join via Facebook.

Looking forward to connecting and sharing with everyone.


  1. You don't see it to this degree, but even in the U.S., we have an issue with bacteria destroying food products during the storage period. Failure to maintain clean storage with the right process cooling will continue to waste food- in America, where we have a problem with surplus, and in Africa, where it is an issue of not having enough to go around.

  2. Since mycotoxins are affecting our food grains in Africa such as maize., which are also main components of poultry feed. With limited food safety testing in Africa, God alone knows what the effects are.