The Authority further disclosed that a total of 17 businesses were closed last year for failing to meet safety standards while 104 expired food products were confiscated.
Speaking to journalists on Tuesday at the Authority’s head office at Kairaba Avenue, Bai Dodou Jallow, the director of Scientific Affairs of FSQA, reaffirmed his institution’s commitment to ensuring food products that Gambians consume are standard, pure and of good quality.
“I can assure you all that FSQA is more than committed to ensuring that the food that comes into the country and the foods that are sold in the supermarkets and other places within the country are fit for purpose,” he assured.
“In fact, we have an entire directorate in this Authority which is responsible for inspection. The directorate conducts routine inspections and visits places based on risk. They target places where the risks are high and they focus their inspection on that area. Sometimes the inspection focuses on markets, supermarkets, street food vendors and schools among others places. Again, we also do have control at the border entry points.”
He also posited: “Inspectors do conduct routine food inspections within the country. Sometimes they do find expired food items in the supermarkets, the main markets and even in the streets where food is being sold. If we find these expired food items and if the products are small, we withdraw them and make sure we confiscate and take them out of the market.
“Any time our inspectors go on inspection, they sometimes come with pick-up full of expired food items.”
He as well confirmed: “It’s true that sometimes supermarkets including Alvihag do have some issues. However, recently, we didn’t find any expired food items at Alvihag supermarkets. But they did have some cases last year. We do have incidents with Alvihag on many occasions. Sometimes it’s not about expired food but spoilage and that is because of the handling of the food. These are what we found in some supermarkets including Alvihag. I think recently, we didn’t find any expired food items at Alvihag. We conduct our inspection routinely and this is done all over the country.
“If the inspectors go to a shop and find huge products of expired food items, and when the person is deliberately trying to take the products to the market, then the Authority takes heavy action which sometimes involves prosecution and sometimes closure and improvement notice.”
Mary Johnson, the director of Regulatory Affairs, said: “It’s a bit lessening down when it comes to expired food at the supermarkets. This is due to the intervention of the Authority and due to the routine inspection that the authority continues to do. In 2022, we had some issues with Alvihag, but it had to do with storage and hygiene. Normally, our inspection doesn’t stop at the supermarkets. We also visit their stores where they keep their food items. If we find any expired food items in those stores, we confiscate the products.”
Alvihag supermarket, she said, is a “highly visited area”, especially their branch at Westfield. “So, we found the issue of hygiene due to the fact that the time they are supposed to clean is the time that customers are entering to buy food items. We also do sensitise them on the need to frequently be cleaning.”