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With African Partners, IAEA Enhances Regional Food Safety Network


Members of the Africa Food Safety Network, and participants of the workshop, pose for a group photo in Pretoria, South Africa (Photo: S. Karar/IAEA)

Recognizing the burden of food-borne diseases, and the need to meet requirements for the export of foodstuffs to international markets, 238 delegates from 54 African Member States attended an IAEA-organized food safety workshop in Pretoria, South Africa, from 4 to 8 June, to strengthen the African Food Safety Network (AFoSaN), an association established with the support of the Agency’s technical cooperation (TC) programme and the Joint FAO/IAEA Division of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture.

The workshop benefitted from the participation of 208 representatives of African Member States, who gathered in Pretoria to share knowledge and experiences related to emerging food safety matters applicable to the African continent. The workshop was organized by the IAEA in partnership with the National Metrology Institute of South Africa (NMISA), the Chinese National Institute of Metrology (NIM), the French Bureau International des Poids et Measures (BIPM), and the German Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB).

As its effects are broad and often transnational, the field of food safety requires the active participation and close cooperation of regional and national stakeholders. To meet these needs, the IAEA helped to establish the African Food Safety Network in December 2014 and continues to support the Network through an ongoing, regional TC project[1], which supports resource-sharing and knowledge transfers in the area of food safety, both of which are crucial to addressing common challenges and to ensuring excellent quality assurance, within the region and internationally.

Of the 84 presentations delivered over the course of event, 21 were delivered by delegates of Member States participating in the regional TC project. The presentations addressed every dimension of food safety, including the levels and status of food contaminants, such as mycotoxins, veterinary drug and pesticide residues, microbial hazards, and the overall quality of food. The national counterparts also provided updates with regards to their attainment of ISO 17025 accreditation, an international standard for testing and calibration laboratories, which remains one of the principal capacity gaps in the region.

Many of the activities, interventions, and national data which emerge from food safety laboratories in the African region regarding the level and severity of food contamination—including residues of veterinary drugs and pesticides—are the result of IAEA technical cooperation support in recent years. The participating Member States shared their experiences on the opportunities provided by the IAEA, including their development of national capacities, the regional collaboration in the area of analytical services, and the consensus built around strategies for the production and distribution of regionally-tailored references.

This food safety workshop produced several resolutions and recommendations, notably the need to prioritize the supply of regionally-tailored, certified reference and proficiency testing materials for all common food contaminants. Furthermore, participants underscored the necessity of engaging more effectively with research and academic stakeholders, in order to further promote strong risk analysis of food contaminants. Finally, the Member State delegates universally agreed that continued collaboration among food safety stakeholders was a critical component of their work, highlighting the need to avoid working in “silos.”

High-level policy-makers, scientists and stakeholders from Asia, North America, Europe, and Latin America also attended, including representatives of the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), African Union (AU), the Partnership for Aflatoxin Control in Africa, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and its Food and Drug Administration (FDA), as well as a team of experts supported by an EU food integrity project. Finally, the workshop benefitted from the presence of several members of the private sector, including 18 instrument vendors and suppliers of food safety testing materials. The participation of 92 meeting participants, including four experts, was supported through a regional project.

The workshop participants were drawn from 54 countries: Angola, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Benin, Botswana, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Canada, Chad, China, Côte d'Ivoire, DR Congo, Ecuador, Republic of, Egypt, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Ghana, India, Italy, Kenya, Lebanon, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritius, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Netherlands, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Rwanda, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, South Africa, Sudan, Switzerland, United Republic of Tanzania, Tunisia, Turkey, Uganda, United Kingdom, United States of America, Zambia and Zimbabwe. 

[1] RAF/5/078, ‘Establishing a Food Safety Network through the Application of Nuclear and Related Technologies, Phase II’

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