ICDC goes on Code mission to Africa

ICDC’s Legal Advisor, Yeong Joo Kean, was in Tanzania from 22 to 26 June to train government officials and NGOs on the monitoring and enforcement of their national laws. The training, made possible with the support of IBFAN Africa, took place after two years of constant contact with local IBFAN group, Counsenuth which put a lot of effort into getting participation of key government institutions.

Counsenuth’s effort paid off as there were representations from the Tanzanian Food and Drugs Authority (TFDA), Tanzanian Food and Nutrition Centre (TFNC), Tanzanian Bureau of Standards and various departments in the Ministry of Health. Counsenuth staff and two others from the civil society movement in Tanzania brought the number of people trained to 30, ICDC’s target number.

Also serving as facilitators at the training were former IBFAN Africa staff, Ray Maseko (now an independent consultant) and Pauline Kisanga, (now Managing Director of Counsenuth).

Tanzania has had a law which gave effect to the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes since 1994  and the country has been in category 1 in the IBFAN scale. This position is reflected in ICDC’s State of the Code by Country Chart where Tanzania is one out of 37 countries recorded to have implemented the Code as “Law.”  The impact of the law is obvious from the way promotional practices in both health care facilities and retail outlets are seemingly under control during the field visits during the course. There were also major achievements in labelling (see accompanying  article).

In 2013, Tanzania adopted the Marketingof Foods and Designated Products for Infants and Young Children Regulations to replace the 1994 law. In an environment where public private partnerships hold sway, there was concern that the new Regulations may be weakened to accommodate industry ambitions but ICDC’s analysis show that the new law has managed to retain most of its original features, among them strict registration requirements and strong labelling provisions for baby food products.

The worrying part, however, was the fact that the pioneers who worked on Code implementation in Tanzania, many of whom ICDC had trained in the past, have retired or moved on. The current group of officials in key government institutions are new and quite unaware of the struggles and achievements of their predecessors, a situation which Pauline Kisanga, the Managing Director of Counsenuth recognised and sought to remedy. Working together with IBFAN Africa, Counsenuth was able to get TFNC to agree to the training and to bring ICDC into the picture.

From the reviews received after the 5-day training, it would appear that the training was timely as participants reported that the course was useful to them in their work and has inspired them to assume the responsibilities assigned to them under the 2013 Regulations.  ICDC in the meantime, hopes to bring the Tanzania’s success with labelling to the notice of other countries in the region.