The Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) has engaged stakeholders at a two-day validation workshop in Accra to adopt an E-Notification System for Food Safety in Ghana.
The new system has been developed with support from the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) after numerous shortfalls were identified among existing systems of key national and regional institutions across the country through a study.
The current system has, therefore, been developed based on the shortfalls.
The FDA is, therefore, exploring the opportunity to replace the current “scattered and non-performing E-Notification Systems” among key institutions, to safeguard the broader interests of both consumers and producers.
Mrs Akosua Kwakye, the Programme Officer for Nutrition, WHO, in her remarks at the opening of the workshop on Tuesday, commended Ghana and its partners for the bold initiative.
She said WHO deemed food safety alert systems as important for early detection, identification of high-risk foods and products for consumer protection, and for curbing the consequences of a large foodborne outbreak or a food safety emergency.
Food safety, she said, remained a public health concern, with an estimated one out of every 10 people falling ill annually and thousands of others dying because of the consumption of contaminated food, citing the aged, young children and the sick as the most affected, especially in Africa, which had the highest disease burden.
Mrs Kwakye noted that rapid urbanisation and globalisation of the food trade had resulted in an influx of a wide range of imported foods on the market, hence countries, including Ghana, were faced with the need to protect the consumer not only from locally produced food but also imported ones, drawing attention to the importance of strengthened food safety systems.
She said the benefits of implementing the E-Notification System were enormous because they would serve among others, as a common platform for information sharing among stakeholders and increase the efficiency of reporting and responding to food safety incidents.
It would not only address food safety concerns locally but also help to strengthen regional and international cooperation to exchange information and enhance readiness to plan and respond to emergencies.
She pledged the unflinching support of the WHO for the adoption and implementation of the system.
Ms Joycelyn Adeline Egyakwa-Amusah, the Head of the Food Safety Management Department, FDA, in an overview of the report on the feasibility assessment for the implementation of E-notification systems for food safety in Ghana, said several shortfalls were identified in existing structures among the key institutions.
She said there were shortfalls in areas such as human resources, poor digitization levels of institutions, lack of interoperability and poor coordination of such systems.
Egyakwa-Amusah, therefore, stressed that one comprehensive E-notification system was recommended for the institutions identified in the management of food safety at both the national and regional levels in Ghana.
Mr Benjamin Osei-Tutu, Head, Foodborne Disease Surveillance, FDA, indicated that the assessment process was facilitated by the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) and that Ghana was the first country to pilot the E-Notification System, citing some of the benefits as fast analysis of data, swift information sharing.
Participants at the workshop included representatives from key national institutions as well as development partners, including the World Food Programme.