A pilot project that seeks to improve food safety outcomes in public health and trade in East Africa, particularly in Rwanda and Uganda has been launched thanks to a multi-sectoral approach (MSA) that works to assure stakeholders on various organizations’ food products and services.
The project which is about the use of the Voluntary Third-Party Assurance (vTPA) programmes to provide independent assurance to stakeholders that a particular organisation’s products, services, or processes are trustworthy, reliable, and secure is estimated to consume a budget of $888,456.
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It is being funded by the Standards and Trade Development Facility (STDF) and aims to bring together a wide range of public and private partners such as Land O’ Lakes Venture37, Rwanda Inspectorate, and Competition and Consumer Protection Authority (RICA).
“Through this partnership, the project is expected to generate valuable experiences and insights that can be shared with national food control authorities in other regions,” said Johnson Ssubi, Project Coordinator for East Africa.
According to him, the vTPA programmes are typically voluntary, and they are conducted by third-party assessors who evaluate an organisation’s security posture against a set of established standards, frameworks, or best practices.
The project will have a particular focus on horticulture in Rwanda and fisheries in Uganda and it will be implemented between November 2022 and October 2025.
“This project’s objective is to pilot the use of data from vTPA programmes to leverage good practices outlined in various vTPA programs like GlobalG.A.P and FSSC 22000 to complement existing national standards and inspection practices , resulting in better public health and improved market access,” said Ssubi.
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Concerning its background, he said that RICA, which is responsible for horticulture products in Rwanda, and the Ugandan authority in charge of fisheries products, sought support from STDF to understand how vTPA programmes can be incorporated into the national food control system.
He highlighted that the project aims to increase awareness among regulators and the private sector about the possibilities, options, and credibility associated with the use of vTPA programmes.
“By doing so,” said Ssubi, “regulators will be able to better understand their capabilities, while the private sector can be assured that their data will be used appropriately.”
Horticulture and fishery sectors
The two sectors chosen for the project, horticulture and fishery, are crucial contributors to the GDPs of their respective countries and employ many individuals.
Ssubi said that through the project, stakeholders in these sectors will receive free training on the Codex guidelines and principles for the use of vTPA programmes, adding that the project will encourage dialogue between the private sector and government to determine whether the vTPA approach can be integrated into the national food control system.
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Savio Hakirumurame, Advisor to the Director General of RICA, emphasised that the project will increase awareness about the connection between regulatory bodies and the work of third-party quality assurance programmes.
He noted that the horticulture industry’s business operators will benefit significantly from the project, declaring that by recognising the work and data from the third-party quality assurance programmes, regulatory bodies like RICA can reduce the number of inspections required to obtain certification.
This could lead to significant reductions in the time and costs associated with the process, he added.
Hakirumurame also explained that a recognised third-party vTPA programme could result in a risk profiling system, which would reduce the number of inspections required for certification.
“For instance,” he said, “instead of being inspected 10 times, the number of inspections could be reduced, depending on the level of risk, if a business belongs to a recognised vTPA programme.”
Hakirumurame added that the project has the potential to save money and time for both the government and private sector stakeholders once approved and implemented.
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Some of the popular vTPA programmes include GlobalG.A.P, SQF Institute, BRCGS, FSSC 22000, and PrimusGFS.