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Analytical summary - Food safety and nutrition

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Groundnuts continue to be the main income-generating cash crop in the Gambia. Rice is the staple food but its production in the Gambia is limited by a variety of factors, especially salinity, causing the country to import significant quantities of the grain.[1]

Groundnuts and groundnut products, fish and fish products, and horticultural products are the main exports, mainly to the European Union.[2] The re-export trade in rice, sugar and wheat flour, mainly to Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali and Senegal, is estimated at about 30% of total imports of these commodities.[2]

The largest international trade activity is the import of food (especially rice), machinery, transport equipment, manufactured goods and fuels. Some of these imports are re-exported to neighbouring countries.

The Public Health Act (CAP 40:03) and the Food and Food Standard Act 2002 serve as the legal framework for food legislation in the country. There is a Codex Committee in place, chaired by the National Nutrition Agency. This has the responsibility of regulating food standards and giving technical advice to government ministries for effective implementation of food safety standards in the country.

Food control implementation includes the inspection of food establishments, covering food processing plants, eating places, markets, bakeries, fish or meat shops or stalls, grocery stores, milk shops and slaughterhouses.

There are provisions for continuing education, with periodic assessment for country needs for various categories of personnel involved in food safety and food control.

There is an organized effort on the part of the Government to provide extension and advisory services to the food industry and trade. Similarly, there is an organized effort by nongovernmental organizations to provide extension and advisory services to the food industry and trade.

Food safety is a part of the primary and secondary level school curriculum and the general public is provided with information through the mass media. The Nutrition Policy, under the auspices of the National Nutrition Agency, was elaborated with involvement of all sectors involved in nutrition-related activities. Having a single policy will certainly facilitate implementation, monitoring and evaluation of nutrition interventions.

The Baby-Friendly Community Initiative is the main entry point in nutrition promotion at community level and helps to improve the nutritional status of both mothers and children at community level. Most children in the Gambia do not receive adequate nutrition and the country does not have an official nutritional or food security emergency policy, although malnutrition, especially among children aged 18–34 months, is still prevalent.[3]

The current Education Policy gives prominence to the implementation of School Health and Nutrition.[4] The Gambia Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey 2005–2006 found that 22% and 20% of all children aged under 5 years were stunted or underweight, respectively.[5]

Iodine deficiency is still a problem in the Gambia as only 7.5% of households use iodized salt. Coverage of vitamin A is 80%.[3] Anaemia is also recognized as a common problem. This implies that micronutrient deficiency is a challenge in the country.

Nutritional surveillance is carried out twice yearly in the dry season (February–March) and the rainy season (August–September) in primary health care communities. Diets in the urban areas are more diverse than those in rural areas. Street foods play an important role in the provision of foods and the supply of fast foods is on the increase. The high consumption of vegetable oil coupled with reduced activity has been noted in urban areas of the country.[6]

Currently, there is a surveillance system in place but it is deficient in that it does not include estimating the burden of food-borne diseases, assessing their relative impact on health and economics and evaluating disease prevention and control programmes.

References

  1. Gambia National Agricultural Investment Programme 2010–2015. Banjul, Government of the Gambia, Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Trade, Industry and Employment, 2009
  2. 2.0 2.1 The Gambia Trade Policy 2010. Banjul, Government of the Gambia, Ministry of Trade, Industry, Regional Integration and Employment, 2011
  3. 3.0 3.1 UNICEF in the Gambia: making life in the Gambia fit for all children, 2007–2011. United Nations Children’s Fund, 2011
  4. Education Policy 2004–2015. Banjul, Government of the Gambia, Department of Education, 2004
  5. Gambia Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey 2005–2006 (Round 3). Banjul, Government of the Gambia, Gambia Bureau of Statistics, Department of State for Finance and Economic Affairs
  6. Nutrition country profile, Republic of the Gambia, 2010 (pdf 621.22kb). Rome, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and Food Insecurity and Vulnerability Information and Mapping Systems, 2010