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NBA notes low biosafety standards in govt labs

THE National Biosafety Authority (NBA) has destroyed various food products containing Genetically Modified Organisms seized from Shoprite Stores worth K16,897.

Meanwhile, the NBA has noted that some of the government laboratories inspected have low biosafety standards.

Communications officer Sandra Lombe said NBA recently seized products that might contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs) from Shoprite superstores (worth K16,897) and Melisa supermarket (worth about K4,000) in Lusaka which were placed on the market without prior authorisation from the authority.

Lombe said during its spot and compliance checks, the authority discovered that the two stores were trading in some products, which might contain GMOs that were not assessed for their safety prior to being placed on the market, thereby contravening the Biosafety Act.

She said the authority, at Shoprite Cosmopolitan Mall, seized various soup products and snacks which might contain GMOs.

“These products were imported into the country and placed on the market without approval from the NBA. Among the products are mini rice cakes of different flavours which included Chutney, Caramel, Balsamic, Cream cheese, Yoghurt, Creamy cheddar and Strawberry. The kitchen soup powders included Thick vegetable, Brown onion, Thick white onion, Oxtail, Minestone, Beef & Vegetable, Chicken soup and Cream of mushroom,” she said.

Lombe said also seized was dog food which included Vitagen and Pedigree from Melisa Supermarket.

She said the products were seized on site as the shop failed to produce proof of authorisation from NBA at the time of inspection.

Meanwhile, the Authority conducted inspections in Muchinga, Central and Northern provinces and found that most of the products which might contain GMOs on the market were those that were permitted by the NBA.

Lombe said on the Copperbelt, the authority conducted compliance checks for institutions that had been granted research permits and biotechnology laboratories for biosafety standards.

She said the check revealed that the research activities and laboratories were compliant to the Biosafety Act.

“For example, Centre for Family Health Research in Zambia is implementing protocols according to set out objectives and biosafety standards. While Tropical Disease Research Centre are following and implementing good biosafety standards in their laboratories,” she said.

“The only challenge is the lack of registration of the Institutional Biosafety Committees (IBCs) by government institutions. IBCs provide an oversight on biosafety and biotechnology related activities in laboratories and research sites.”

She said the Authority also noted that some of the government laboratories inspected had low biosafety standards and advised them to improve and work on non-compliances cited.

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