By Dr. Sylvia Baluka
Food laws refer to the total body of the law, created and enforced by national governments to ensure the safety of consumers and enhance fair trade practices in foods among countries around the world.
While regulations are authoritative rules or directives enforced by administrative agencies such as the Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS), US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the USA and European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) in the EU.
With globalisation, food is increasingly moving greater distances from where it is produced to where it is consumed.
Hence the need for all countries to have food laws and regulations that are protective of the public health of their people.
Food laws and regulations serve several purposes, besides protecting the public health, they assure fair trade practices; protect the environment as well as conveying information to consumers and protecting consumers against food fraud.
Food laws and regulations deal with food safety, health claims, food labeling, nutritional labeling, and safety of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), food and color additives, good manufacturing practices (GMPs), and sanitation requirements.
Regulations dealing with food labeling, nutrition labeling, health claims and use-by-dates or expiry dates also help to inform the consumers and by so doing; they avoid misleading information and help to protect the unsuspecting general public or consumers against unsubstantiated claims or fraud.
Ensuring fair trade practices is one of the oldest mandates of food laws. Laws and regulations regarding GMOs and application of pesticides serve to protect the consumers as well as the environment.
Food laws and regulations also help national governments to ensure safety of consumers and enhance fair trade practices in food products between countries.
When countries enforce food laws effectively, the quality of their food products improves, for instance better quality can be reflected by the low chemical residues in food which make their food exports more acceptable in the international markets.
Regulations dealing with plants containing GMOs, the application of pesticides and or use of drugs in food animals serve to protect the environment as well as public health.
Food laws are becoming more important because people around the world demand for safe and nutritious food. Food industry stakeholders and businesses must realise that food laws and regulations are now an important part of doing business.
Global trade in food and agricultural products is increasing which is creating concerns and challenges for governments and international organisations around the world.
Every national government wants assurance that the food imported from other countries is safe and poses no threat to the health of consumers, their citizens or their animals and plants.
The Sanitary and Phytosanitary Agreement (SPS) of the World Trade Organization (WTO) gives countries the right to establish standards and regulations to provide the level of health protection and safety deemed appropriate for their citizens, provided they are scientifically justifiable and are applied in a non-discriminatory manner.
All countries have food laws and regulations that are put in place to protect their people. Countries protect their citizens by inspecting imported food to ensure that it is safe for human consumption.
Protecting the health of citizens is achieved by enforcing laws that deal with food safety, health claims, food labeling, nutrition labeling, and safety of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), food and color additives, good manufacturing practices (GMPs) and sanitation requirements.