The Uganda National Bureau of Standard (UNBS) has warned school Head teachers, Directors and suppliers to adhere to the prescribed standards of food that comes out of milling machines.
UNBS has thus urged relevant education authorities to seek certification from suppliers before they accept products for consumption by the students placed in their care.
The warning comes hot on the heals of a major scare where more than 200 students of Nakanyonyi Secondary School in Mukono district suffered food poisoning recently. They were however saved by the rapid response of the school administrators and the police who took them for emergency health support.
The alarm was sounded during a two days sensitization campaign organized by UNBS in partnership with USAID Feed the Future Uganda Inclusive Agricultural Market Activity (FfF IAM) in Gulu City for food processors, policy makers, local government and millers on food quality and standards in schools.
Patricia Bageine Ejalu, UNBS Deputy Executive Director while giving remarks said poor quality of food in the education institutions remains a major challenge that needs to be addressed to ensure that suppliers and maize flour millers keep their business premises, milling equipment and stores regularly cleaned.
Bageine also emphasized the need for improved record keeping as one of the requirements by Uganda National Bureau of Standards to award a facility with a UNBS certificate.
She observed that promotion and enforcement of standards against substandard production does not rest solely in the hands of UNBS but stakeholders, especially the local government and community leaders have a big stake in partnering with UNBS to ensure that the established factories produce and distribute products safely to ensure that the products on the markets conform to Uganda’s quality standards.
According to Bageine, the majority of mushrooming milling factories in the country don’t conform to the minimum standards yet their establishment and operation could have been evaluated and closely monitored by the local government.
She however adds that the food value chain needs the involvement of every stakeholder to ensure the production of quality products to safeguard lives of Ugandans.
She urged farmers to adjust and adopt modern standards recommended for post-harvest handling practices, especially for cereals and grain products that are heavily consumed in schools to prevent the risks of aflatoxin contamination that causes liver cancer.
“Use of unacceptable pest control methods, spraying with pesticides and insecticides that can contaminate the maize flour should be avoided, but rather use other means that do not contaminate the flour in the stores”, she added.
She cautioned institutional heads and suppliers to avoid storing maize directly on the floor but keep it on pallets in order to avoid contact with damp flours that could lead to moulds and aflatoxin contamination.
She pointed out further that workers must be fully dressed in Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) during production process, have regular medical check-ups and have their health records kept as required by the standards.
Jane Frances Amongin Okili, the Resident City Commissioner Gulu City, says food safety in schools and in the local market must be a collective responsibility undertaken by all stakeholders to ensure community and learners eat the right food from the right source.
Anthony Ojok, the Chairperson School Management Committee in Pader faulted some grain suppliers for failing to observe the standards of their produce supplied to schools and noted that there are limited spot checks for food products that are taken to schools, communities. He urged UNBS to further conduct regular quality and standards checks across the country.
Pido Joe Cankara, the Director of Studies at Koch Goma S.S in Nwoya District says poor storage facilities in most schools are a great challenge to food quality and called on school administrators to take keen interest in improving food storage to ensure quality food is provided for learners.