ECSA Health Community in collaboration with GAIN and USAID, worked with 13 countries to strengthen regional coordination for monitoring the quality and safety of locally produced fortified and nutritious foods. Through the established regional platform, an assessment was undertaken to identify national capacity needs and priorities in a move towards regional harmonization and capacity building.
The assessment involved the review and analysis of submitted mapping questionnaires and policy documentation from key informants in 11 out of 13 countries and structured discussions with experts during regional consultative meetings. The findings were validated by stakeholders during a regional workshop.
From the analysis, three priority areas identified for improving the quality and safety of fortified and nutritious foods at a national level were: improved inspection and enforcement, clearer legislation, and strengthened quality assurance and quality control practices (QA/QC). The identified regional priorities were consumption and impact monitoring, harmonization of standards, and development of a regional inspection/enforcement framework. The countries also expressed the need for enhancements to technical knowledge and capacity in equipping testing laboratories, QA/QC, consumption and impact monitoring, inspection and enforcement practices. The findings informed development of regional work plans to address the capacity needs at national and regional levels.
A harmonized regional approach is essential in addressing the existing knowledge and capacity gaps at national and regional levels. Greater efforts are needed to strengthen regional coordination and support the capacity building efforts for effective monitoring of quality and safety of locally produced fortified and nutritious foods.