The world, including Tanzania, is under threat in the wake of massive circulation of substandard food, drugs and water products. The quality of these items is compromised, as dealers of the products eye super-normal profits at the expense of people’s health.
Approaches employed by many governments to control quality of the products seem to have not born anticipated fruits, as dealers invent new and perhaps more sophisticated technologies to export food and drugs from one country to another and across domestic markets.
“In fact, the situation is getting out of hand…governments and regulatory bodies globally, must join forces if we really want to eliminate substandard and fake food and drugs,” noted a food expert in a recent interview.
However, as the world is crying foul over spoilt food and drugs markets, Tanzania is praised for installing strategic drives to check quality of food and drugs, both imported and locally-manufactured.
The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Yukiya Amano recently showered praises on Tanzania government’s efforts for controlling the quality of food, medicines and water, components which he described as “crucial when it comes to the protection of public health.”
“I am really impressed by the performance of Tanzania in this area,” IAEA Director General, Yukiya Amano, said during his visit to the laboratory facilities/equipment of the Tanzania Food and Drugs Authority (TFDA) in Dar es Salaam. The atomic energy chief who was on a two-day visit, toured a few projects supported by IAEA and met various stakeholders involved in the implementation of related undertakings.
The agency top official commended TFDA’s efforts in the control of food and drugs safety and quality using sophisticated and modern laboratory equipment. He said the world population was growing very fast, a situation which increases demand for food, water, drugs and other related consumables.
“Under such situation, the need to put in place effective controls on the quality of these items is inevitable. Public health must be protected,” stressed the IAEA Director General.
He cited TFDA as an exemplary partner that has been very supportive in the agency’s initiatives (at domestic level) in controlling quality of both imported and locally-manufactured food, water and medicines.
“My agency will continue extending more financial and technical support to Tanzania in these areas to ensure effective protection of public health. Cooperation, on Tanzania’s side is very important,” the IAEA chief said.
Deputy Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Dr. Seif Rashid said the government through TFDA has managed to develop a comprehensive system for control of food, drugs, cosmetics and medical devises in the context of protecting public health.
However, he attributed the achievements to support extended by various development partners, acknowledging IAEA’s support to TFDA especially in capacity building (combined equipment and training of staff). “IAEA will always be remembered as one of the development partners who contributed toward the success story of TFDA since its establishment almost 10 years ago. The ministry of health is proud of the successes attained by TFDA,” noted the deputy health minister.
But TFDA has registered significant strides in the past nine years which include certification of its’ management system to ISO 9001: 2008 since 2009, ranked as the Best Managed Public Institution for two consecutive years (2010 and 2011) during the public week celebrations organized by the President’s Office (Public Services Management).
“The other success story and which is of significance today is the WHO Prequalification of our Medicines testing laboratory, in January 2011 and accreditation by SADCAS to ISO 17025: 2005, of our food testing and microbiology laboratories in September 2012,” said TFDA Director of Laboratory Services, Charys Ugullum, in her introductory as IAEA boss visited TFDA laboratory facilities.
She described the developments as a critical indicator of the competence of TFDA laboratories and liability of analytical results internationally, noting that “IAEA contributed to these achievements and we thank you for your generous financial, technical and market support.”
According to TFDA Director of Laboratory Services, IAEA has supported TFDA in two projects, the first was designed to use nuclear related techniques in ensuring food safety by controlling pesticide residues and contaminants such as metallic contaminants and aflatoxins. The second project focused on monitoring veterinary drug residues in foods.
For the first project, Ugullum said TFDA received a total of USD 241, 892 for the procurement of laboratory equipment and chemicals worth UDS 112, 250, fellowships worth USD 111, 150 for training six analysts each for three months in Germany, Austria and the UK, including one week scientific visit to an accredited laboratory in Germany.
Based on this support, TFDA’s capacity to analyze food samples for mycotoxins, melamine in milk, metallic contaminants and food additives has increased from an average of 30 samples during 2008/09 to more than 1, 000 samples during 2011/2012, noted TFDA official.
TFDA Director General, Hiiti Sillo said despite achievements recorded, TFDA faces many challenges, including inability to identify and quantify pesticide residues in food due to absence of laboratory equipment called “Gas Chromatography coupled with Mass Spectrophotometer (GM-MS). The authority relies on qualitative results from test kits which may not be adequate.
Absence of service and maintenance engineers/experts for laboratory equipment in Tanzania is another major challenge facing TFDA, forcing the authority to hire technicians from neighbouring Kenya at the cost of USD 25,000 annually.
However, in the wake of these stumbling blocks, TFDA remains determined and committed to protect and promote public health by ensuring safety, quality and effectiveness of food, medicines, cosmetics and medical devices. “In fact, we aspire to be the leading African regulatory authority in ensuring safe, quality and effective food, medicines etc,” said TFDA director.
The government has stepped up substantial efforts to eliminate circulation of substandard and fake food and related products, in the face of increasingly sophisticated techniques employed by dishonest dealers.
Recently, TFDA impounded 1.5 tonnes of counterfeit food items worth 7m/ in an extensive and strategic crack down which was carried out across Arusha City in wholesale and retail outlets.