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Experts in the food industry are worried that Nigeria’s persistent annual loss of N1 billion annually to ‘mycotoxim’ infection of food crops is impacting negatively on the food industry, even as they have called on the President to prioritise assent to the Bill for the establishment of the Nigerian Council of Food Science and Technology (NCFST).
The Bill, among other things, seeks to regulate the practice of food professionals, while licensing them to monitor and perform their regulatory functions across the country in various food value chains, industries and markets across the country.
“If this bill is assented to, if you want to set up a food industry or a food company, you must employ a food professional that would ensure that what you are producing and giving out to people is wholesome and safe for consumption,” Oluwole Toye, national president, Nigerian Institute of Food Science and Technology (NIFST), said over the weekend at the fifth regional food summit held in Abuja.
Nigeria has experienced several export rejects of its food exported to Europe and other developed countries, on the back of poor regulatory framework that has seen various unregulated and unwholesome food leave the shores of the countries without proper regulations and standardisation.
For instance, a breakdown of data from the European Commission rapid alert system showed that 42 Nigerian food imports were refused entry into EU countries in 2015 and another 25 in 2016.
According to the agency, some of the food items are illegally imported and do not have labels, proper packaging, health certificates and other entry documents.
Toye informed newsmen at the summit that if the bill was assented to, it would help the professionals key in properly into its regulatory function, while monitoring closely the activities of the farmer, processor, and entrepreneurs in Nigeria’s food export business.
The bill would enhance processing and exportation of wholesome foods outside the country. The food practitioners would be licensed. If you are a licensed practitioner, there are rules of engagement that must be followed accordingly, he states further.
He added, “Once food professionals are licensed and have legal backing, then they would step up their regulatory role and functions. Right now, nobody seems to be held accountable. The government would also see the need to engage professionals the more.”
It is estimated that 25% of the world’s food crops including many basic foods are contaminated by mycotoxins and estimated global losses of foodstuffs due to mycotoxim contamination is approximately 1 billion tons per year.
He said the bill for the establishment of the NCFST for the regulation of the practice of the Food Technology profession, which was passed by the 8th National Assembly would go a long way to mitigate mycotoxin poisoning by positioning suitably qualified professionals at critical segments of the food value chains.