How Safe is Our Food
If there is one thing we do at least once every day without fail is eating. But have you ever taken a moment to think about the whole production process, who regulates it? and how exactly safe is consuming food that that you just found on the market floor, already packed or on the shelf? Well if you have, you are not the only one, others have had such concerns before so much so that globally there are standards that have been set for food producer to conform to ensure food safety. One amongst others is the Global GAP Standard.
Maybe we can start by explaining what this “Global Gap Standard” is before the details of its training. Global GAP (Good Agricultural Practices) is a farm assurance program meant to ensure that farmers produce in a conducive environment with a system that translates consumer requirements into production that is safe for human consumption. This programme started off in 1997 as EUREPGAP, it was developed by retailers and supermarkets in continental Europe after they became conscious of consumers’ growing concerns regarding product safety, environmental impact and the health, safety and welfare of workers.
This program because it saved the producers from the need to undergo several audits against different criteria every year. It attracted so many countries that wanted to adopt the standards and each country localized EUREGAP for instance in Eswatini its known as the Swaziland Standards Authority (SWASA). So now to reflect its global reach, the name changed from EUREGAP to GLOBAL GAP.
NAMBoard a body that regulates agricultural produce in Eswatini initiated the training of Market Extension Officers (MEOs) on these standards. This training was facilitated by Mr. Philip Mndawe the Technical Manager at SWASA. Worth noting is the fact that he is also a health inspector and has assisted a number of times some of his students with the implantation of the Global GAP standard on their farms.
Global GAP encompasses 3 other standards which makes it the most adopted standard. During a 3 days training of industry expects from NAMBoard, ESWADE and Ministry of Agriculture, Mr Mndawe, gave an insight that the Global GAP Standards evolve and recently version5 was released incorporating clauses on the following but not limited to:
1. Traceability, which allows for food to be traced a step back (supplier) and a step forward (retailer). The produce has an identification number that reflects all its details from the farm it was produced from to chemicals used and pack house to name a few. This is so that should the commodity cause any problems for consumers, the cause can be tracked back.
2. Risk Assessment, seeing what could possibly go wrong during production in terms of weather conditions, pest and disease etc, the auditors- SWASA as local GAP would want to see if the company has a preventive or remedial plan.
3. Hazard identification ,has to do with noting the possible harm and formulating strategies on how both employer and employee can prevent the occurrence. For instance, spraying a tomato farm with chemicals is hazardous for the employee. So, upon identifying this, a preventive action would be the employer purchasing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) then conduct trainings on usage and the employee would have to make sure to use the PPE correctly.
4. Hygiene risk procedure, Global GAP says that there should be on how to workers as well as the working environment can be kept clean to avoid contamination.
5. Site history. Imagine farming on a site which was once a military training ground and the soil contains gun and bomb powders. So, this standard says that research on the site must be conducted to measure its suitability for a farm and then management it properly.
All these add up to qualify a producer to be Global GAP certified. You may have a question that what if I am unable to meet at least one of these standards? does that automatically disqualify me for the certification? Well for SWASA, you are given until the next audit to rectify the mis-conformity.
One more thing highlighted as an important factor in the Global Gap standard is the documentation of rules/ regulation/ procedures in a language that everyone in the company will understand. An example of Eswatini would be to document these in both Siswati and English easier conformity by everyone in that particular farm or company.
Mr. Mdawe as an inspector advised, saying, “before calling for an external audit, conduct an internal inspection as part of preparing for the main audit. This would bring to attention any element or required document that has been left out which would raise a non-conformity against the company.”
You are what you eat, therefore it is important to take note of the food you consume. The consumption of foods from producers that are uncertified, unregulated and/or unmonitored food can lead to fatal diseases such cancer.
NAMBoard has already adopted and is conforming to the Global Gap Standards and is sensitising other farmers and producers of the importance of producing through a tested, approved and certified system. So that as a country we produce healthy and safe food, not only for our consumption but for our export market as well.