EU interception of harmful products from Ghana damages trust

The interception of some harmful organisms in some exported products from Ghana by the European Union meant that the exporter did not follow standards testing requirements, Mr Neil Ferdinand, an international expert on quality testing said on Tuesday in Accra.

He said the EU’s interception has created a bad perception for products exported from Ghana to the EU markets.

Mr Ferdinand said this at a customer forum organized by the Ghana Network of Testing and Calibration Laboratories on the theme; “Testing and Quality Assurance to facilitate trade.”

The forum, which attracted members of the network including Ghana Standard Authority (GSA), Food and Drugs Authority (FDA), Food Research Institute (FRI/CSIR), Biotechnology and Nuclear Agriculture Research Institute (BNARI-GAEC), Plant Protection and Regulatory Services Directorate (PPRSD-MOFA), Customs Laboratory (Customs/GRA), Forensic Science Laboratory (CID-Police) and customers.

Mr Ferdinand told participants that any product meant for export to the EU market has to go through the requisite and accredited laboratory testing processes, and also need to meet the requirements before it was allowed for exports.

“You need to test to be sure that there are no pesticides or anything harmful. The test must be done in accordance with international best practice so that one milligram in the EU will mean one milligram in Ghana.”

Mr George Anyebuno of the CSIR Food Research Institute urged exporters to test their products before passing them to consumers, adding that few actors in the industry tested their produce prior to sale.

He said there was a general perception that laboratory testing was a beautifully crafted means of reducing profit margins of producers and processors, and told participants that such misconceptions however were largely based on insufficient appreciation of the importance of testing.

Mr Anyebuno said little attention was paid to good agricultural practices leading to inappropriate application of agro-chemicals in addition to transportation, storage and handling problems.

He said ISO 17025 was an international standards measurement that specified the general requirements for the competence to carry out tests and or calibrations with 15 management requirements and 10 technical requirements, which outline what a laboratory must do to become accredited.

“This involves the identification of parameter, microbiological, and chemical composition. Quality and safety issues have gained considerable attention globally and Ghana is no exception, and that is why certain standards are set including manufacturing standards-ISO 9000 (including HACCP), production standards – Various GAPs, testing/calibration- ISO 17025 to ensure quality and integrity of goods and services traded,” he added.

He said in addition to these standards, there were regional or continental standards such as the EU standards, US standards and national standards like the GSA Ghana Standards, which expect certain requirements that have to be met in order to accept products and services.

These standards form a basis for acceptance or rejection, leading to the setting of permissible limits by regional groupings, continents and countries to protect their citizenry.

Mr Anyebunu said there was the need to build capacity to test for various parameters with regards to toxins (aflatoxins), pesticide residues, heavy metals, equipment efficiency for accuracy of results, reliability, which could all be achieved by ISO/IEC 17025 accreditation, adding “that is an obligation and a must.”

Mr. Paul Date, Chairman of the Network, said aflatoxin B1 was very harmful and that was why products must always be tested to ensure that what was being exported was good and of quality.

He said producers must also make sure that the products produced for local consumption was good and so they needed to test them before they took them to the market both locally and international.

He said there was the need to sensitize the companies especially along the value chain process so that people who needed to know about a particular standard therefore will be informed. GNA

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