The World Food Programme (WFP) has reported key areas of its food safety and quality work in East Africa in 2023.

WFP’s approach to food safety and quality involves oversight at all supply chain stages, from production and processing to storage, handling, and distribution.

In 2023, WFP’s regional bureau for Eastern Africa managed 59 food incidents, with three categorized as critical, 17 as major, and nine as minor.

The amount of food impacted was 72,985 metric tons, a 50 percent decrease from 164,790 metric tons in 2022. WFP said this highlights the effectiveness of implemented controls and interventions in mitigating food loss and ensuring food quality and safety.

Oversight of suppliers
During the Sudan crisis, WFP Food Safety and Quality followed emergency response protocols. This included waiving food inspections for early releases and dispatches and streamlining the supplier qualification process for low and medium-risk foods.

Supplier audits and assessments involved checking compliance with regulations, managing risks, improving operational efficiency, and monitoring the performance of existing suppliers.

There were 18 support and oversight missions to country offices.

Following the introduction of Food Safety and Quality (FSQ) corporate guidelines in 2022, WFP’s food safety and quality unit at the regional bureau undertook field missions to country offices, including Rwanda, South Sudan, Djibouti, and Kenya. The aim was to enhance risk mitigation strategies within the WFP supply chain and facilitate the integration of FSQ practices into the operations and programs across operations.

The Food Safety and Quality Terrain (FOSTER) platform manages five WFP food safety and quality business processes: pre-shipment inspections, supplier audits, supplier corrective actions, compliance and product testing, and product specifications management.

By the end of 2023, the platform’s use across the region had reached 70 percent, short of the 95 percent target. WFP said this can be attributed to changes related to a high volume of early releases in Sudan and the exclusion of vendors not listed as logistics services providers, such as millers, affecting 328,265 metric tons of food.

Training and country highlights
More than 3,500 participants were reached in 22 regional and country office training sessions, including WFP staff, external partners, government workers, and others in the supply chain.

These events covered food handling, warehouse management, food incident management, FSQ guidelines, traceability, and post-harvest management. One example was training on integrated pest management in Mombasa in September.

In Rwanda, an agreement was created with the Rwanda Standards Board to support the development, implementation, and compliance monitoring of food safety and quality standards and capacity building.

WFP provided training to five cooperatives in Burundi on post-harvest handling, storage, and warehousing practices, improving the quality of grains supplied.

WFP conducted 34 technical assessments in Uganda on 27 grains and pulse suppliers and seven processed food suppliers. Through these assessments, 15 suppliers met the food safety and quality requirements and were recommended for inclusion on the local food vendor roster.

In Somalia, WFP negotiated the exemption of its commodities from import inspection, ensuring smoother delivery of humanitarian food assistance. Restrictions were also lifted on foreign pest control management firms.

WFP has partnerships with Trademark Africa, the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA), the Bureau of Humanitarian Assistance (BHA), and Partners in Food Solutions (PFS). Trademark Africa focused on reducing trade barriers by harmonizing food standards and SPS measures. BHA funded aflatoxin control projects and regional strategies, while PFS aimed to help food processors meet technical standards.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)