The Zambia Civil Society Scaling Up Nutrition Alliance says the Food Safety Bill presented to Parliament by Minister of Health Dr. Chitalu Chilufya does not provide a conducive environment for the private sector to promote food safety.
Appearing before the Parliamentary Committee on Health, Mathews Mhuru, the CSO-SUN Country Coordinator noted that a substantial part of the new bill is dedicated to ‘policing’, and not enough to the roles and responsibly of the state to provide public services that ensure food safety can be realised and adequately maintained.
Mr. Mhuru observed that despite the majority of Zambians accessing foods from markets and streets especially fresh produce, not much investment has been made to promote access to clean water and sanitation in markets and streets where people trade.
And Mr. Mhuru has noted that the regulation of artificial foods is missing in the Bill and this will be a growing issue in coming years.
He told the Committee that synthetic biology is a rapidly expanding field, and the production and marketing of synthetic food is currently still being debated at international level with international standards and regulations not yet agreed.
And on the labeling and advertisement of food, Mr. Mhuru has recommended that this section in the Bill should deliberately mention the terms Healthy, and Nutritious foods as these are the most commonly used false claims by food producers in their advertisement of food products.
He noted that if left unchecked, this has the potential to worsen the already escalating Non-Communicable diseases especially among vulnerable populations.
Mr. Mhuru has however described as progressive the proposed establishment of a national food laboratory and has recommended that laboratories should perform routine food testing to monitor compliance and conduct trace back investigations where there are food borne disease outbreaks.
Minister of Health Dr. Chitalu Chilufya last month presented the Food Safety Bill to Parliament and it passed the first reading. The Bill is at the committee stage on Health Community Development and Social Services which is expected to present the report to the Speaker on 17th July, 2019.
The objective of the Food Safety Bill is to provide for the protection of the public against health hazards and fraud in the manufacture, sale and use of food; provide for a streamlined process for regulatory clearances for regulatory health requirements for food premises; establish the Food Safety Coordinating Committee and provide for its functions and powers; provide for health inspection reports and report notices; establish the National Food Laboratory; repeal the Food and Drugs Act, 1972 and sections 79 and 83 of the Public Health Act, 1972; and provide for matters connected with, or incidental to, the foregoing. (N.A.B. 9/2019)