Aldon Grace Walukamba.
A walk around markets in Uganda from Kosoro, Kampala to Soroti, Gulu and Arua to Elegu border, one finds a variety of fresh and dry foods on display, many times in a very insecure manner.
Oranges, mangoes, tomatoes around Kalerwe, and Nakasero and Nakawa markets in Kampala are displayed on the ground for buyers to see and buy. On the other hand, dry food like flours from cereals, sugar and salt to food spices is displayed in the open along roads. This is not any different from fish in Pakwach, roasted meat along Karuma Highway and in Kamudini the foods are dangerously displayed to the public.
This comes when Uganda celebrates the world food safety day under the theme: World food safety is every bodys business.
Martha Kansiime, a Food safety expert with Makerere University says most of the foods are laid on the ground with dust, mud, waste and toxic substances mixing with the food all day long. This results into non edible chemicals like heavy metals, bacteria and dirt getting to the food items before they are bought by consumers, unknowingly putting them into danger of their lives.
“This endangers the unsuspecting but willing persons who buy and consume the food on a daily basis and should be stopped henceforth Kansiime said.
Agnes Kirabo, Executive Director Uganda Food Rights Alliance says these foods when consumed are reason behind, unending cancers, poisoning and other ailments accruing to eating unsafe foods.
Kirabo says that treating the avoidable diseases from unsafe food has become costly, that most Ugandans cannot afford.
It takes 10 million shillings for one person to undergo the six cycles of chemotherapy at the Uganda Cancer Institute Agnes Kirabo said.
Many times milk and meat have been found with formalin, cassava flour and sodium bicarbonate as preservatives, fish that has been poisoned, most fresh foods contain a chemical glyphosate, yet most of our flours and paste from maize, millet to groundnuts and simsism respectively are grinded by machines that wear out and are replaced. The grinding machines release small metal particles that are consumed by Ugandans on a daily basis.
Unsafe foods are not only a danger to peoples health, but the economy as well. Several food items in Uganda have been banned for export to the European Union, Kenya and the Asian continent owing to the way our foods are preserved and transport to the market in Uganda.
Jane Nalunga, ED SEATINI says the food safety chain must start from the garden with good inputs like seed, chemicals and care, during growth and harvest in order to protect Ugandans. Some farmers still use banned chemicals like weed master that has a chemical glyphosate, which was banned by most of the countries where we export our food.
Government should up the regulation on the use of food chemicals, but also give incentives to those farmers and food producers who maintain the right gardens of foods brought onto the market Nalunga said.
The Uganda National Bureau of Standards has put in place food standards, but these mostly apply to foods on the market and not in the garden. Christopher Senabulya, 62 a retired banker says the standards must apply to all foods, as opposed to processed foods in Uganda.
These can be implemented by the passing of by laws and ordinances at the district and counties to reinforce the regulation of standards of food production in Uganda.
In addition Kimera Richard, a food rights activist says the existing food policies and laws, which have been shelved for many years without being used, should be applied in the quest to have safe food in Uganda.
According to Uganda National Bureau of Statistics 400,000 people die out of 10% of Ugandas population who eat unsafe food on a daily basis and leave 1.5 million Ugandans to suffer from diseases caused by consuming unsafe foods annually.
The writer is a journalist and Communication strategy specialist in Uganda