By Kebba Secka
Modou Lamin Jaiteh, the Scientific Officer at the Food Safety and Quality Authority (FSQA), said a consignment of rice donated by main land China has met the minimum health standard set by the institution, on food quality, thus making the rice fit for consumption.
According to Jaiteh, his institution is aware of the imported rice and can confirm both consignments which were imported into country. He added the rice is for human consumption. He made these assertions at the institution’s headquarters in Kotu on Monday 27 May 2019.
In a press release from the Chinese Embassy last week, said the aid is part of China’s emergency response pledge made to the Government of the Gambia, in order to mitigate the crop failure of the 2018 farming season. The release indicated the parboil rice was produced between October and November 2018, and had a duration of nine months from the date of production. The Ministry of Agriculture also issued a press release earlier, clarifying doubts and giving assurance to the public of Government’s commitment to their safety.
Dilating on the labeling and packaging standards of imported and exported food items, Jaiteh said: “FSQA under the minimum quality standard of rice needs to see that it is packaged in a container which will safeguard the hygiene, nutritional, technological and organoleptic qualities of the product,” he told this reporter. Asked about the specific labelling of the packages to help consumers understand, the Scientific Officer explained that it could be written on the bag as ‘Exp’ which means ‘expiry date’; that it can also be written as ‘best before’ a given date; that if the label indicates ‘best before’, it does not mean after the given date; that with the exception of the expiry date label, other types of labels can indicate ‘safe for consumption’ even though the indicated date has passed.
Jaiteh further indicated that his institution is conscious of their mandate towards the safety of the public; that they will never compromise with anyone whosoever, to bring contaminated or expired food products into the country, whether by Government, businesses, individuals or agencies.
“For the quality of rice, there are different interpretations of the definitions of the labels given. It can be subjective or objective depending on the measurement of the quality, and that is where we look at to see whether the food item has reached its minimum quality,” he told this reporter. According to him, identification of food quality goes beyond appearance, to the observation of signs, even if the item is not put to a laboratory test.