Speaking my language in The Gambia

I am recently back from a job in The Gambia and wrote this out there... I am writing this in The Gambia where I am with the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization to help the newly established Food Safety and Quality Agency here to build their capabilities and implement an effective food control system in the country.  Everyone’s at prayers yet I feel mine have been answered – I’m in a beautiful county, among friendly people, talking about my favourite topic – risk-based food safety.

Authorities here are making much of the new single food agency they have created. I understand it is a still the popular model, and one the African Union members are particularly keen on.  I think the same ends can be achieved with a variety of structures (for more info see an EDES report prepared for developing countries),  but what I am really heartened by is the commitment to ensure that the new food control framework being put in place is ‘risk-based’.

It seems I am always going on about ‘risk-based’ and the term gets used and misused frequently. But the country is making a concerted effort to ensure that the words are more than just lip service.  The approach is enshrined in a new law and has filtered into the new organisation’s structure and language.  As an important prerequisite to the risk analysis process, stakeholder and scientific communication channels have been established.

But as expected there is a lot to do to really implement such an approach. Even the first key step of identifying and prioritising the hazard/food risks in the country is difficult, with no or few data. Without this knowledge, ‘risk-based’ really is just a nice term. Presented with the same problem in Qatar this year, a couple of us came up with a way to rank their food safety risks, that didn’t require funding a major programme. More on this later – we are working on a publication on how this was done. Hopefully The Gambia and others will also be able to benefit, to help them do more than just speak the lingo.