The Government of Liberia through the Ministry of Health, in collaboration with the National Public Health Institute of Liberia (NPHIL), the ministries of Commerce and Agriculture, the National Standard Laboratory, the Liberia Chamber of Commerce, the Liberia Business Association and other local and international partners, has launched the National Codex Committee in Monrovia.
Making remarks at the formal launch of the NCC over the weekend on behalf of the Minister of Health Dr. Bernice Dahn who was absence, the Director of County Health Services at the Ministry, Dr. Cuallau Jabbeh Howe expressed delight over the launch of the codex committee and promised the Ministry’s willingness to work with implementing partners in making sure that the Draft Food Law and National Standards Act come to fruition.
“Every country needs a good policy on food safety legislation, and the Ministry of Health is working in that direction, because we are charged with the responsibility of protecting our citizens in our borders. There is an urgent need for us to collaborate and make sure that whatever is brought in this country is fit for human consumption, it is not a one man thing but rather a collective efforts and with the support from our partners the CNFA/ LADA FAO, WHO among others we can achieve our goals” Dr. Howe lamented.
She hinted that Liberian is noted for having good laws on the books, but the implementation aspect is what she says causing problems for the country. The county Health Services Director the Ministry of Health and the Government were grateful to launch the National Codex Committee and promised to working with everyone in making sure that the food law and the Act are passed into law.
Meanwhile, the Deputy Chief of Party for Programs at the Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture/Liberia Agribusiness Development Activity (CNFA/ LADA), Mrs. Watchen Harris Bruce pledged her institution commitment to working with relevant stakeholders to have the National Standards Act and Food Law passed into law.
Mrs. Bruce said CNFA/LADA has budget to support the process but such funds can not be released unless the Government and other actors can play their part by passing into law the Standards Actand Food law. According to Deputy Chief of Party, CNFA/ LADA is working in four counties:Montserrado, Bong Lofa and Nimba along five value chains comprising cassava, rice, vegetable, cocoa and aquaculture. She said LADA’s goal is to increase agricultural incomes of small holder farmers through private sector investment. Mrs. Bruce concluded the LADA is currently working with the National Standards Laboratory to bring the Lab to internationally acceptable standards.
The National Codex Committee was launched at the Emergency Operating Center, the National Public Health Institute of Liberia or NHPIL in Oldest Congo Town, Tubman Boulevard. It can be recalled that Liberia joined the International Codex Alimentarius in 1971 but there has been no substantial trace of Liberia’s active participation in Codex activities.
The Codex Alimentarius or “Food Code” is a collection of standards, guidelines and codes of practice adopted by the Codex Alimentarius Commission. The Commission, also known as CAC, is the central part of the Joint FAO/WHO Food Standards Program and was established by FAO and WHO to protect consumer health and promote fair practices in food trade. It held its first meeting in 1963. In Liberia, Codex activities has been dormant without more people in this generation knowing anything about it until recently in March 2017, the Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA), an international NGO implementing the Liberia Agribusiness Development Activity (LADA) with funding from the United States Government through USAID sponsored two US expert consultants in food law to the Government of Liberia whose duties were to assess the Liberian food industry, identify gaps, determine a path forward, and advance world-standard recommendation.
The CNFA/LADA experts concluded that “food safety programs in Liberia are either non-existent or completely ineffective. The country has no food laws and regulations; no food inspection service; inadequate laboratories to test for harmful chemicals and pathogenic microorganisms in food; very few, if any, personnel trained in food safety; and no food safety teaching and/or research at the universities.”
To follow up on the assessment and assist the government, in partnership with the Government of Liberia (GoL), CNFA/LADA established the National Codex Technical Working Group (TWG), a joint initiative of the Government of Liberia, CNFA/LADA, and the private sector. Through TWG, CNFA/LADA sponsored the the National Standards Act and Food Law which were validated on June 30, 2017 in Monrovia. The documents have since been forward by CNFA/LADA to the relevant Government Ministries including Health, Commerce and Agriculture for onward submission for Cabinet endorsement and passage into law.
The launch brought together officials of government from line ministries and agencies including Health, Commence, Agriculture, Finance and LRA, etc. Also, attending the event were private sectors actors like Mr. Charles Ananabas of the Liberia Chamber of Commerce and Mr. David Sembeh of the Liberia Business Association including the consumer council of Liberia the Liberia Baker Union, Water Producer Association, representative from the World Health Organization and Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. The launch, which was sponsored by CNFA/LADA was under the theme “Promoting Food Safety for Health, Fair trade and consumer protection”.