Improving the Enabling Environment for Food Safety and Quality in Nigeria
Strengthening food safety systems is critical to unlocking the economic potential of agricultural value chains for producers through enhanced market access and trade while increasing the availability of safe and nutritious foods for local consumers.
In June of 2022, the Food Safety Network conducted an assessment of the food safety system in Nigeria to develop a roadmap for capacity-building under the Feed the Future Initiative. This assessment was prepared in response to Nigeria’s country action plan, which calls for investments in the food safety regulatory system to achieve food and nutritional security outcomes. The assessment included a literature review as well as in-person consultations with regulators across the government of Nigeria.
What We Learned
Nigeria experiences a number of food safety challenges, including, but not limited to, high rates of food-borne disease and weak culture of food safety. Its rapid population growth, urbanization, and climate change will exacerbate existing challenges related to food availability, accessibility and utilization. The country has recently introduced a Food Safety and Quality bill that would provide comprehensive reform to its food safety system. The bill awaits passage by Parliament and signature into law by the President before it can be implemented (see this policy brief overview from GAIN's EatSafe program).
Given this context, we identified four priority areas for capacity-building to support Nigeria’s food safety modernization efforts. These include:
- Effective risk management: Food safety risk management is a system-wide approach by which farmers, government officials, and other decision makers identify hazards and evaluate risks to determine if and which mitigating measures should be implemented to reduce the risk to human, animal and environmental health. In Nigeria, we observed varying levels of risk management implementation across different agencies. Infrastructure and resource constraints were also noted to support scientific risk analysis and upgrading of food safety regulatory systems. Nigeria wants to create a more coordinated and overarching risk management framework with the new law, which will clarify the roles of government and the private sector to keep food safe.
- Improving traceability: Traceability improves buyers’ confidence in the supply chain, increases efficiencies in production, improves revenue generation and reduces waste. In today’s global market, traceability is either required for regulatory or business compliance, or it provides a competitive advantage to those who adopt end-to-end tracking systems, allowing participation in high-value chains. Currently, Nigeria does not have legal requirements for effective operating traceability systems throughout the supply chain, which creates challenges for market access and recalls. Data on the incidences of food-borne disease outbreaks are also poor.
- Mycotoxin control: Contamination of food and feed with mycotoxin, especially aflatoxin, is a serious problem in Nigeria, where 31 percent of maize and 51 percent of groundnut kernels intended for human consumption are reported to be contaminated with aflatoxin. Awareness of aflatoxin is low among actors of the food supply chain and sensitization was identified as a priority by the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Agriculture, Nigerian Institute of Animal Sciences and Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Service to implement effective mitigation. Risk management for aflatoxin should leverage the strides made in other countries by the Partnership for Aflatoxin Control in Africa in terms of awareness raising, resource leveraging and actions to mitigate aflatoxins. The industry, especially the feed industry, would like to see routine screening driven by the Government to ensure the production of quality feed; access to quality feed is a major challenge of the poultry and aquaculture sectors.
- Ensuring safe and effective use of pesticides: Crop protection products are essential for controlling damaging pests. With a changing climate, new pests and diseases are emerging, persistently threatening Nigeria’s agricultural sector. This emphasizes the need for access to new and targeted pest control tools and strategies for farmers to maintain production levels, while at the same time protecting consumer health, the environment and enhancing trade. As a large country with different agroclimatic zones shared with neighboring countries and with some capacity-building in risk analysis for crop protection products, Nigeria could become a leader in the regional harmonization effort of the West African Pesticide Registration Committee and promote adoption pathways that would benefit countries with less advanced regulatory infrastructure in this area.
Passage and implementation of the Food Safety and Quality Bill leading to better regulations to increase private sector participation in food trade and improve consumer knowledge of, and decision-making on, safe food; strengthening the capacity of government regulators on risk-based food safety management, including approaches to inspection and the inclusion of internationally recognized practices such as Good Agricultural Practices, Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point and Good Handling Practices in regulatory requirements; sharing experiences on traceability and recall procedures; improving Nigeria’s World Trade Organization’s notification and enquiry functions; capacity-building of industry and producer groups to increase awareness and use of biocontrol products for crop protection, including against aflatoxin, safe and effective use of chemical pesticides, and implementing food safety control plans would further support the implementation of the new risk-based requirements as they come into effect.
About the authors…
- Lee Gross is an International Program Specialist at the United States Department of Agriculture's Foreign Agricultural Service;
- Dr. Dave Stone is the Director of the Oregon State University Food Innovation Center;
- Dr. Yemisi Jeff-Agboola is an Associate Professor of Food Microbiology/Food Safety, Director, UNIMED Akure Campus, Director of Centre for Continuing Education, University of Medical Sciences, Ondo City, Nigeria; and
- Jazmian Ohanyere is an agricultural specialist and Feed the Future Coordinator in the United States Agency for International Development’s office in Abuja, Nigeria.