How to get rid of food fraud

Daniel Kamara

What you need to know:

  • Only through collaborative action can Uganda ensure the safety, authenticity, and sustainability of its food system

Food fraud in Uganda, like in many parts of the world, presents a significant challenge to consumers, producers, and regulators alike.

While Uganda boasts a rich agricultural landscape and diverse culinary heritage, the prevalence of food fraud threatens the integrity of its food supply chain and compromises public health and trust. 

One of the most notable examples of food fraud in Uganda involves the adulteration of milk. Milk is a staple in the Ugandan diet and a vital source of nutrients, particularly for children.

However, unscrupulous producers often dilute milk with water or add harmful substances such as hydrogen peroxide to prolong its shelf life or to increase the consistency. This practice not only reduces the nutritional value of the milk but also poses serious health risks to consumers.

Another common form of food fraud in Uganda is the mislabelling of products. This can include misrepresenting the origin or quality of agricultural products such as coffee, tea, and honey. For example, counterfeiters may label coffee beans as “Arabica” when they are, in fact, of lower quality or a different variety.

Fish is another sector vulnerable to food fraud in Uganda. With the country’s abundant water resources, fish is a vital source of protein for millions of Ugandans. However, the fish industry faces challenges such as concealment, mislabelling, substitution, and the use of unauthorised chemicals for preservation.

 Addition of stones into rice to increase the weight,  addition of maize flour into wheat flour to increase its amount, adding syrups and sugar in honeys, selling mutton meat as goats’ meat, using sugar in products labelled sugar-labelled, use of cooking oil until it becomes very black are some of the vices practiced by unscrupulous people.

The honey in Uganda is plagued by food fraud, with reports of adulteration and mislabelling rampant. Honey is valued for its medicinal properties and is a significant source of income for many rural communities.

However, dishonest traders often mix honey with syrups or sugar to increase volume and reduce costs. Additionally, counterfeit honey labelled as “pure” or “organic” deceives consumers and undermines the livelihoods of honest beekeepers.

The prevalence of food fraud in Uganda is exacerbated by several factors, including weak regulatory enforcement, inadequate testing facilities, and limited public awareness. The Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) plays a crucial role in ensuring food safety and quality standards.

However, limited resources and capacity hinder its ability to effectively monitor and regulate the food industry. Moreover, corruption and collusion between regulators and dishonest traders further undermine efforts to combat food fraud.

Addressing food fraud in Uganda requires a multi-faceted approach involving government intervention, industry collaboration, and consumer education.

Strengthening regulatory frameworks and enforcement mechanisms is essential to deter fraudulent practices and hold perpetrators accountable. This includes increasing penalties for offenders, conducting regular inspections, and investing in laboratory facilities for testing food authenticity.

Furthermore, collaboration between government agencies, industry stakeholders, and international partners is crucial to share information, build capacity, and implement best practices in food safety and quality assurance.

Supporting small-scale producers through training programmes and access to resources can also help improve transparency and traceability in the supply chain.

Consumer education and awareness campaigns are equally important to empower individuals to make informed choices and demand accountability from food producers and retailers. By educating consumers about the signs of food fraud and the importance of purchasing from reputable sources, we can create a culture of transparency and integrity in the food industry.

In conclusion, food fraud poses a significant threat to the integrity of Uganda’s food supply chain and the health of its population. Examples such as milk adulteration, mislabelling of agricultural products, and the use of unauthorised chemicals in fish and honey highlight the pervasive nature of this problem.

Addressing food fraud requires concerted efforts from government, industry, and consumers to strengthen regulations, improve enforcement, and promote transparency throughout the supply chain. Only through collaborative action can Uganda ensure the safety, authenticity, and sustainability of its food system for generations to come.

Mr Daniel Kamara  Nutritionist- Bwindi Community Hospital