Malawi food processors urged to adhere to standards – USAID

The Malawi’s food processing industry has been urged to comply with international standards to enhance the safety of consumers and the acceptability of their products at the international market.

Cross section of particiants
Cross section of particiants
Thiagarajan speaking at the workshop
Thiagarajan speaking at the workshop

Food safety specialists from Michigan State University in the USA, DeepaThiagarajan and Leslie Bourquin made the call at Sunbird Lilongwe Hotel during a three-day training for local food processors organized with funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through Feed The Future Malawi: Integrating Nutrition in Value Chains.

Thiagarajan, who is Director and Assistant Professor at the University’s Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, said adhering to international standards would lead to economic development, job creation, skills development and improved public health.

“The Ministries of Health, Trade and Industry and Agriculture are showing commitment in the area and efforts are being made to ensure that safety standards are followed; this is part of the reason we are here,” said Thiagarajan.

She told the 27 participants that protecting the public from the consumption of unsafe foods, should remain the hallmark of every food processor.

Apart from protecting consumers, Thiagarajan stated that adhering to international standards would help Malawi access high value regional and international markets and, therefore, boost the viability of the agricultural sector.

The Malawi Government has prioritized trade promotion and access to international markets in order to bolster economic development. The food processing sector is still nascent in Malawi and has yet to effectively penetrate foreign markets.

INVC Agricultural Value Chains Specialist, Henry Gaga, said the training would help the industry understand what is required of their processes to meet international food safety and hygiene standards and of their products in terms of quality.

“We are exploring how our industry processes food and implements the Hazard Analysis for Critical Control Points (HACCP) plan, among other things. All prominent international manufacturers requirelocalproducers to meet good manufacturing practices, good hygiene practices and HACCP,” said Gaga, citing the Global Food Safety Initiative(GFSI) which was established by the world’s major food processors like Cargill, Coca-Cola and General Mills as a commitment towards food safety.

Commenting on the situation in Malawi, Gaga said most agro-processors are able to meet basic standards but noted that most Malawian based processors were challenged by the lack of accredited laboratories to verify that international standards were indeed being met.

In Malawi, good hygiene practices are enforced by the Malawi Bureau of Standards (MBS) through a code of conduct to which all players in the sector must comply. Standards in the international marketplace are much more rigorous.

This basic level course exploredtopics like food safety systems including: specifications, control of non-conforming product, traceability, incident management and corrective actions. It also included good manufacturing practices such as facility layout, product flow, facility and equipment maintenance, staff health, hygiene and cleanliness, waste management, transport and storage.

To attain international acceptability for their products, manufacturers are required to comply with internationally set Good Manufacturing Practices, ensure Good Hygienic Practices and implement the HACCP plan in their manufacturing processes from raw material through to the finished consumer products.

The workshop is one of a three part series to be offered over the next year to interested and engaged processors willing to commit to reach GFSI standards.

Participants at this first workshop included such players as Universal Industries, Rab Processors and Project Peanut Butter who manufacture Chiponde and whose major clients are Unicef, Clinton Foundation, the Ministry of Healthy and National AIDS Commission, among others.

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