Deconstructing food safety policy of Nigeria, by Oyetola Muyiwa Atoyebi, SAN



The World Health Organization provides that food safety encompasses all measures implemented to safeguard human health from potential harm resulting from the consumption of food, particularly when it is prepared and/or consumed in accordance with its intended use

Accordingly, the Federal Ministry of Health formulated the National Policy on Food Safety and Its Implementation Strategy (NPFSIS 2014) which stands as Nigeria’s most extensive document on food safety policy. The execution of this policy was intended to be reinforced by the enactment of a Food Safety & Quality Bill into law which was finally passed on 20th December 2022.

The Policy is crafted to establish a decisive system for delineating national food safety objectives, with the aim of developing appropriate laws, regulations, and guidelines that align with international best practices across all facets of the food supply chain.

This paper will examine salient provisions of this policy framework, analyse the impact of the policy pari pasu with the challenges that persist despite the formulation of the policy and proffer plausible solutions in the face of persisting drawbacks.


The preface to the Food Safety Policy of Nigeria 2014 which gives a clear summary of the recognizable need for the Policy provides that:

“The food safety practices in Nigeria fall below the recommended global standard resulting in high incidence of outbreaks of foodborne illnesses, low international patronage of our food commodities and tourism. This situation may have arisen from the existing multi-sectorial legislation, multiple jurisdictions, and weakness in surveillance, monitoring and enforcement, culture, lifestyles, poor agricultural practices, mode of food production, handling, storage, preparation, transportation and poor eating habits.”

Other extant provisions were formulated in line with the need to address the afore-identified ill and contain noteworthy strategies for the implementation of same. A careful perusal of the policy shows the thoroughness employed by the formulators of the policy to make same as explicit as possible.

As properly noted in the policy, the Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH), Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), Federal Ministry of Environment (FMEnv), Federal Ministry of Science and Technology (FMST), Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment (FMITI), their state ministries and relevant Departments at the Local Government Areas are vested with regulatory powers.

Furthermore, the policy document is structured into four chapters and a glossary. In chapter one, the policy framework is delineated, encompassing the background, an overview of food safety, the existing regulatory framework, public establishments, their mandates, and the scope and rationale for the policy.

Chapter two delves into the institutional arrangements required for the efficient implementation of the National Policy on Food Safety and its implementation strategy. It also outlines the structure, roles, and responsibilities of the National Food Safety Management Committee.

The third chapter expounds on the implementation strategies of the policy, detailing the goals, objectives, strategies, and activities.

Chapter four elucidates the framework for the effective monitoring and evaluation of food safety throughout the food chain.

The policy is designed to create a robust early warning system capable of identifying, tracking, and preventing the spread of food-borne illnesses before they escalate and its provisions are generally preventive in nature.

In line with this desire and its aim to attain widespread and efficient collaboration and coordination of food safety practices across the entire food supply chain throughout the country, the policy provides for a food safety system known as the Integrated Food Safety Management System approach.

The policy further proposed the establishment of the National Food Safety Management Committee which will function at the juncture where different levels of government intersect with various stakeholders in the food supply chain.

Similarly, the Policy provides for goals as follows:

To modernize the Nigerian food safety regulatory framework in line with international best practices.

Minimize the incidence of risks associated with physical, chemical and biological hazards in foods and water.

Strengthen institutional capacity for food safety.

Improve information and communication systems for food safety.

It should be noted that impressively, each objective was covered by succinct strategies and activities in line with international best practices.


A major impact of the Food Safety Policy is the successful passage of the Food Safety and Quality Bill passed in 2022. It is also worthy of note that the policy clearly outlined roles for each agency directly responsible for the enforcement and implementation of the policy. It should however be stated that the target for the policy’s enforcement was pegged at a benchmark of five years (2014-2019) but many of the challenges to food security continue to loom over the country.

One of the notable challenges of the policy was identified during its formulation. This is because evolving lifestyles have fostered the growth of food outlets and vendors in both urban and rural areas and this has led to a notable increase in the frequency of consuming at least one meal away from home daily, especially in commercial hubs across the nation. This problem is not just peculiar to Nigeria but is reported by all developed nations where fast and processed food is the most consumed meal.

The reason this poses a challenge to food safety and continues to subsist even after the formulation of the policy and the subsequent enactment of the Act is that most of these eateries and fast-food joints have complete disregard for obtainable standards or best practices. Owing to the number and lack of proper databases for these outlets, enforcing compliance is a near-impossible task.

Another major challenge is in the area of the relevant regulatory bodies. The Federal Ministry of Health and the different agencies engaged in food safety still lack a firm grasp on issues related to counterfeit drugs, expired foods, advertising concerning food composition matters, certification, substandard processed food, and the registration of food, drugs, and related products, including the African Free Trade Area (AFA).

This has resulted in the continuous importation and sale of unsafe food despite the target contained in the policy to ensure that foods imported to the country, and supplied to consumers are safe, wholesome in line with national standards and food safety objectives within the first five (5) years of its implementation.


As earlier stated, the implementation span for the policy was pegged at five years (2014-2019) but the policy has largely failed in proper execution of the provisions of the policy. There is therefore need to carry out the long overdue review of the policy to ensure that it is at par with recent modifications in international best practices.

There is also a need to clearly define the role of party agencies who seem to continue to duplicate the functions amongst themselves to ensure the seamless operation of the system.


The Food Safety Policy of Nigeria 2014 is a very comprehensive document that seeks to give voice to the endless concern of the government about the obtainable realities of Food safety in the country. The policy albeit not perfectly implemented, has the potential of revolutionizing food safety and quality from what we used to know.

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