The Food and Drugs Authority has sensitised agro produce importers and operators of storage facilities in the country on regulatory requirements for their operations towards protecting public health and safety.
The sensitisation workshop took the participants through the legal requirements for agro produce import and storage; requirements for import and clearance of agro produce; and requirements for agro produce storage operations and facility licensing.
In her opening remarks, Mrs Delese Darko, the Chief Executive Officer of the FDA, said the mandate of the Authority was to protect public health and safety.
This, she said, would be achieved through employing the appropriate regulatory measures including licensing of facilities, where food is sold, prepared, packaged, conveyed, stored or displayed to ensure their quality and safety as stipulated in Section 130 of the Public Health Act 2012 (Act 851).
She said the Plant Protection and Regulatory Services Directorate (PPRSD) of Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) in 2018 reported that, over 60 per cent of plants and plant products imported into Ghana were agro produce for human consumption.
Mrs Darko said the Directorate also reported that fresh fruits and vegetables were the second most imported commodity following rice imports, adding that agro produce by nature were highly perishable.
The CEO said fruits and vegetables were known to be high risk foods due to their high moisture and nutrient contents with little or no application of heat before consumption, hence the need for good food handling practices to maintain their quality and safety.
She said in 2017 and 2018, about 50 per cent of the consumer complaints and 100 per cent referrals from the FDA Port Office received by the Agro Produce and Biosafety Department (APBD) were related to spoilage of imported fresh fruits and vegetables due to poor storage practices.
Mr Darko said there was the need to intensify regulation of importers of agro produce and their respective storage facilities as well as operators of agro produce storage facilities to ensure the safety and quality of agro produce in trade.
She said the workshop offered the opportunity for stakeholders to make inputs with respect to the Guidelines for Licensing of Agro Produce Storage Facilities and Codes of Practice for Storage of Agro Produce Storage Facilities and also agree on timelines for implementation to facilitate compliance.
Mrs Faustina Atupra, the Head of Agro Produce and Biosafety Department at the FDA, taking the participants through the requirements for licensing agro produce storage facilities, said food safety played a critical role in preventing contamination at every stage of the food chain from farm through harvesting, processing, storage, distribution, to consumption.
Mrs Atupra said produce could be contaminated with physical hazard – stones, dead insects, animal droppings; chemical hazard – pesticide residues, mycotoxins, agro chemicals; and biological hazard – salmonella typhi, and E. coli among others.
She said it was therefore prudent to implement good food handling practices because they were the most effective and efficient way of eliminating, reducing or controlling the risk of contamination.
She said a facility meant to store food must be designed to prevent or minimize the entry of pests and sources of contamination such as smoke and dust, adding that it must also prevent leakages of water into the building.