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Having Pleasure on the Plate but Safety in the Mind . by Kimera Henry Richard, Chief Executive - CONSENT Presented at An International Conference for Consumer organizations on Food Safety on June 9 2005 at WHO Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland Under the theme

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having pleasure on the plate but safety in the mind
Having Pleasure on the Plate but Safety in the Mind

by Kimera Henry Richard, Chief Executive - CONSENT

Presented at

An International Conference for Consumer organizations on

Food Safety

on June 9 2005 at WHO Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland

Under the theme

Crafting a Public Health Agenda for a Modern Food Safety Systems

Organized byWHO, FAO and SFI – CSPI

  • Introduction and Status quo
  • Challenges
  • Interventions, Action & Way forward
  • Conclusions
introduction and status quo contd uganda in brief
Introduction and Status quo contd…Uganda in Brief

Vital National Information and Statistics on Uganda


  • Geographical location: East Africa, astride the Equator, land locked.
  • Geographical neighbors: Kenya, Tanzania, Sudan, DR Congo, Rwanda
  • Administrative system, structure: Decentralized system with central government retaining role of policymaking, supervision and admin. Units - 56 districts
  • Area: 241.038 sq km (93.072 sq miles)
  • Life expectancy: 45 years (men), 47 years (women) – UN
  • Population distribution: 82% rural, 18% urban
  • System of government: ‘No party’ system but in transiting to multiparty system
introduction and status quo contd uganda in brief5
Introduction and Status quo contd…Uganda in Brief


  • Historical background: Former British protectorate, stable before independence but chaotic afterwards (turmoil, unrest, economic decline)
  • Major languages: English (official), Kiswahili, Ganda
  • Major religions: Christians, Muslims
  • Number of phone lines: 1.040.127 mobile, 71.056 fixed (4.2% penetration) – UCC, Nov. 2004
  • Access to electricity: 5% of population (250,000 connections - ERA)
  • Access to clean water: 60% (national), 55% rural – 2004 (DWD)
  • Literacy rate: 69.9%
  • Adult HIV prevalence: 7% (MoH, 2005)
  • No of radio sets (per 1000pple): 130 (unicef, 2002)
  • No of television sets (per 1000pple): 16 (unicef, 2002)
  • Prevalence of poverty: 38% (MoFPED, 2004)
  • Available capacity: 315mw (April 2005- ERA)
  • Population / population density: 26.7 million / 126 persons per Km2 (UN, 2004)
  • Population growth / fertility rate: 3.4% PA / 6.8 children per woman
introduction and status quo contd uganda in brief6
Introduction and Status quo contd…Uganda in Brief


  • Main exports: Coffee, Fish and fish products, tea, tobacco, cotton, maize (corn), beans (MoFPED)
  • Monetary unit: Uganda shilling
  • Exchange rate: $1=sh1,770; є1=2,200; £1=3,200
  • GDP per Capita: US $240 (World Bank, 2003)
  • Integration, trade arrangement: Member of EAC, COMESA, WTO, OIC
  • Major taxes: Income tax (including corporate tax), withholding tax and rental income tax; value added tax (VAT); excise duty on certain products and sales tax. Imported goods attract import duty and import commission. (Source: MoFPED)
  • Total external debt stock: US$ 4.3billion [10% GDP] (2003/04 – MoFPED)
  • Inflation: 7.0% (March 2004 – MoFPED)
  • Tax revenue: 12% of GDP (MoFPED)
introduction and status quo contd uganda consent in brief
Introduction and Status quo contd…Uganda & CONSENT in Brief

CONSENT in brief

  • Consumer Education Trust (CONSENT) is a civil society organization that strives for a socially informed, equitable and just society through empowerment of consumers, promotion of ethical practices among business and engagement of policymakers to enact pro-people policies for present and future generations.
  • CONSENT designs and implements programs and activities through stakeholder/public awareness; capacity enhancement; constructive dialogue; policy research and advocacy; and advisory services on socio-economic issues.


  • To promote consumer education at all levels of society;
  • To promote sustainable dialogue among stakeholders for the benefit of consumers;
  • To carry out research and develop resources for advocacy, awareness and training programs accessible to stakeholders;
  • To develop a resource center to facilitate different stakeholders.
  • To establish links and networks with likeminded organizations, institutions and individuals in promotion of a fairer marketplace.
introduction and status quo contd uganda consent in brief8
Introduction and Status quo contd…Uganda & CONSENT in Brief


  • Consumer Education: awareness, capacity enhancement and access to justice;
  • Food and Agriculture: awareness, capacity enhancement, food safety and security, quality surveillance, biotechnology and bio-safety;
  • Trade and Economics: socio-economic literacy, capacity enhancement, advocacy for fair trade, access to justice, sustainable development and poverty reduction;
  • Health and Environment: access, quality of service, safety, hygiene, sustainable and responsible consumption, biotechnology and bio-safety,;
  • Utilities and Social Services: access and quality of service.


  • The implementing team at CONSENT is of dynamic, qualified, dedicated, experienced and technical calibre. The team has working experience in public and private sector environment in research, policy formulation and implementation as well as harmonization of policies, legal and regulatory frameworks at national, regional and international levels.
status quo of the food safety system in uganda
Status quo of the Food Safety System in Uganda
  • Food is essential for the very existence and sustenance of life of human kind. Therefore, it follows that its existence, in terms of quantity and quality, as well as safety and security are accorded the importance they deserve under any process - socio–economic; political, etc.
  • Food-related issues and risks including disease infections and infestations as well as chemical and toxin contamination should be accorded due priority and addressed at all societal levels at national, regional and international levels. With increasing globalization and cooperation among nations, problems and dangers could easily and quickly spread within nations and across nations faster than ever before. The situation is worse in developing countries like Uganda where borders are highly porous and the marketplace is ill-policed due to institutional and policy weaknesses and gaps.
  • The high prevalence of food-related and food borne diseases requires detailed regulation to guide consumers especially the most vulnerable and disadvantaged in society including infants, children, the poor, and the physically/mentally handicapped.
  • Food-related diseases and hazards are recognized to be a significant public health problem in Uganda, although there is insufficient data to enable accurate quantification of morbidity and mortality associated with the same.
status quo contd
Status quo contd..
  • Much of the burden of illness results from basic sanitation failures that occur during food production, processing, retailing and handling in the home.
  • Basic food hygiene is made difficult by the lack of necessary sanitation infrastructure in many parts of the country and segments of the food system.
  • It’s appreciated that with perfect markets; there would be no need to regulate for safety. Consumers with perfect knowledge about the safety of the products on offer would decide for themselves what suited their needs best and their decisions, by themselves, would be sufficient to ensure that unsafe products would get no sales and would find no place in the market.
  • However the reality and practical outcome on the Ugandan market is different thus requires effective interventions through appropriate policies legal and institutional frameworks.
  • It is appreciated that there is nothing like zero risk and that perfect safety is impossible.
  • It is noted that many products on sale every day carry considerable risks. Justifying the need to protect consumers from dangers that they cannot reasonably foresee or guard themselves against.
  • It is appreciated that, it is difficult for consumers to protect themselves against risks without guidance thus the SFI project and other initiatives are welcome but should be practical and result- oriented to answer challenges in the arena.
status quo contd11
Status quo contd…
  • The risks arising from improper hygiene practices in the manufacturing, distribution and handling of food products at home are clearly considerable. This calls for modern policy frameworks and enforcement regimes to impose a duty on all involved in the production, processing and sale of food products to sell to consumers only products that are safe and wholesome.
  • In reality, implementation has proved impossible due to a number of facts that are political, economic, social, spiritual and cultural. Existing legal and regulatory frameworks in Uganda can protect and improve food safety but the ability to implement is lacking and some of the regimes are obsolete.
  • In the existing laws, surveillance and recall regimes exist but are not applied. For example, the Public Health Act empowers local governments to inspect eating houses before licensing. However, this is not happening. Why? It’s due to incoherence in policy, coupled with financial constraints at local government level.
  • Change of policy that came with wide-ranging reforms since the late 1980s to the present day has resulted in down-sizing of the civil service and deregulation. Institutions performing the role of quality assurance and creating safety nets were greatly affected by the developments. For instance, the Uganda National Bureau of Standards as well as other institutions at national and local authorities (district) levels are understaffed and under-resourced.
  • Consumer organizations and other stakeholders are involved but the effective participation is limited to a few activities because do not have statutory powers to apprehend and litigate all through the legal system.
status quo contd12
Status quo contd…
  • As key stakeholders, Consumer organizations (COs) play a role with regard to any societal concerns and interests by providing input to policy, legal, regulatory and institutional frameworks, protocols, agreements, negotiations and implementation processes and agendas like food safety and control system among others.
  • COs are also recognized and appreciated as entities that act on behalf of the voiceless, vulnerable and resource poor communities. As the eyes, ears and voices of the communities they also compliment the mainstream actors - government. Their involvement is paramount in attaining effective food control systems for a healthy nation.
  • CONSENT’s campaign in food safety underlines the responsibility and importance of having safe and hygienic food right from the farm, through the market to our plates. It is the organisation’s position that it’s everyone’s responsibility as we are all consumers.
  • We sum up the campaign in the slogan: Consumers should have pleasure on the plate and safety in mind at all times. In essence, consumers / stakeholders should always think beyond the food on the plate and question its safety and quality.
  • They should also participate in food-related issues at household and all societal levels (village, sub-county, district, national and international) to enhance food safety control systems.

Challenges to Food Safety …

  • With recognition of high prevalence of food-related disease and other risks, there is urgent need for information, education, training and empowerment of all stakeholders on the importance of food-safety and hygiene.
  • Urgency and reality are far apart due to a number of challenges right from farm/food production, processing, retailing and handling in the home.
  • High poverty levels lead to what locally is referred to as the ‘survival syndrome’ at all levels. Why? Several members of the executive, judiciary, legislator, regulators, local government and business, etc are in business. The question then stands: Who is regulating, monitoring and evaluating whom?
  • Consumers are left to the mercy of God or to their own mercy for those who don’t believe in the supreme deity. Under the status quo, the resource-poor institutions can only play their role to a limited extent.

Other challenges include:

  • Limited human and financial resources to effectively implement food safety activities.
  • Limited public awareness and high consumer ignorance
  • Weak policy, legal and institutional framework to address issues
  • Incoherence of existing policies and legal frameworks
  • Lack of documented data on the prevalence of food borne diseases
  • Inadequate infrastructure to test, inspect, store and generally handle food products
  • Lack of explicit framework for consumer and consumer organization involvement
inventions action way forward
Inventions, Action & Way forward
  • ·The recognized high prevalence of food-related diseases needs interventions right from changing retrogressive mindsets/attitudes through to changes of policy and regulatory frameworks. This requires huge investments in information, education, communication and training.
  • ·Guideline 7 as well as its components is good only if commitments are turned into action because information, education, communication and training, if effectively implemented can bear sustainable and long-lasting results.
  • ·Consumer awareness and information are a prerequisite to any sustainable development process in any given setting. In broad terms, this involves initiatives that provide information and foster awareness of the beneficiaries as end-users to enable them make informed decisions and choices and also provide feedback that can fact in, to operationalize the alert systems and emergences on a broad spectrum.
  • ·Stimulating consumer curiosity, followed by questioning and reporting is vital as it feeds into safety monitoring mechanisms and facilitates in designing effective interventions with regard to food-related illness. Why? Consumers are a vital factor in the prevalence and stoppage of food risks.
inventions action way forward contd
Inventions, Action & Way forward contd…
  • ·Consumer awareness and access to information about consumables is a right, in fact a human right, synonymous with the need to promote socio-economic harmony and prosperity at all societal levels through facilitating consumers’ understanding and response so as to enable people from all walks of life to live safely and responsibly.
  • ·One of foundations or strong pillars for addressing the risk of food-related diseases is public/stakeholder/consumer awareness and involvement. This is an effective tool that should be applied for the operationalization of laws and regulations to sustain food-safety activities and programs.
  • ·Complimentary efforts require a multi-sectoral approach to address the documented and undocumented incidences of food borne diseases through public private partnerships to hold the bull of challenges by the horns.
  • ·Consumer organizations promote rights and responsibilities of consumers through advocating for the establishment of legislation, institutions and information that improve quality of life and empower people to make changes in the quality of their lives.
inventions action way forward contd17
Inventions, Action & Way forward contd…
  • ·Consumer organizations campaign to ensure availability of good quality and safe food that is accessible and affordable for consumers through an enabling environment through advocating for the right policies, regulatory and institutional framework.
  • ·In order for government, local authorities and the private sector to realize food safety, they should apply result-oriented approaches at all stages to benefit consumers using the following principles:
    • Involving stakeholders in decision-making
    • Increase investment in infrastructure and institutions
    • Applying simple participatory methods as much as possible and
    • Using existing expertise and infrastructure effectively. We should not always re-invent the wheel – let’s as much as possible evaluate and build on the existing resources.
  • ·Promote consumer awareness at all societal levels through involving all stakeholders while stressing rights, responsibilities, DOs and DONTs in food safety.
  • ·Immediate review and enactment of a modern food safety law and regulations
  • ·Immediate operationalization of stakeholder awareness initiatives of the CODEX Guidelines on Street vended foods in Africa to promote food hygiene.
inventions action way forward contd18
Inventions, Action & Way forward contd…
  • ·Carryout training on food safety systems at all levels in the informal and formal sectors. It’s a fact that the informal sector is the biggest provider of food in both urban and rural setups.
  • ·Carryout evidence-based research on prevalence of food-related diseases and share results to input interventions, frameworks reviews, awareness and justification for governments to investment more in food safety.
  • ·Generate and disseminate Information, Education and Communication (IEC) materials that are accurate and relevant on food safety to foster consumer awareness. They should be: simple, clear, user-friendly and meet the aims of awareness, flexibility, compatible with other documents and easy to translate.
  • ·Empower stakeholders to effectively engage in policy, legal and regulation formulation and implementation. Advocate for pro-poor policy frameworks to promote consumer welfare and ensure high standards of safety.
inventions action way forward contd19
Inventions, Action & Way forward contd…
  • ·Promote transparent and accountability practices as basic precepts in the food industry to ensure consumer safety, especially the disadvantaged and resource poor.
  • ·Networking with different stakeholders in the food industry to enhance consumer safety, operational capacity, tapping expertise and cost effectiveness in implementing food related issues through designing interactive/participatory food safety events that bring together like-minded or interested parties.
  • ·As matter of principle, Public-Private Partnerships should be enhanced to effectively address the challenges in food control systems. This should be in the areas of:
    • Consumer awareness on food handling chain
    • Policy Advocacy
    • Research for feedback and data collection
    • Capacity enhancement in institutional, human and financial resources for effective implementation, participation and responses.
    • Information dissemination and networking.
    • Monitoring and Surveillance: Work with other stakeholders in conducting monitoring and market surveillance exercise on the food industry for rapid/effective response on concerns.
  • In icing the cake, to ensure an effective food control system and sustainable development, the following are recommended:
  • Place food safety on the political agenda – prioritize food matters
  • Immediate enactment of food safety laws and regulations and implement control regimes. It is imperative to adopt the CODEX Street Food Vending Guidelines given the importance of street food segment in developing countries (Uganda).
  • Build capacity of (street) food vendors to promote food hygiene
  • Observation of food control and safety at all levels: farmers, consumers, businesses etc.
  • Intensify public awareness on food-borne diseases
  • Develop clear institutional framework on food safety
  • Quality standards of food products should be strictly observed and cross-referenced at both local and international levels.
  • Lastly, as internationally, economies become increasingly more interdependent, it is imperative that consumers in one country are given accurate and clear information about the compliance of imported goods with standards set in their country of origin.

… it’s the right and responsibility of every consumer to participate ...

Thanks You for Listening to Me