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EAC Adopts Harmonised Food Criteria

Harmonised criteria for the registration and certification of pre-packaged food adopted by East African Standards Committee

The food trade across border in the East African Community is particularly hampered by non-tariff barriers (NTBs). Each of the six EAC Partner States have different regulations and procedures for enforcement of standards for foods, especially pre-packaged foods. The inconsistencies in trade requirements create a great deal of uncertainty for the business community trading in these commodities and increase the cost of doing business in the region.
The EAC has already approved a framework to facilitate EAC cross border trade of food and cosmetics and has now taken another step of paramount importance to implement this framework. It is a great milestone for intra-regional trade in the EAC that the East African Standards Committee, supported by EU-EAC MARKUP through GIZ, developed and adopted harmonised criteria for the registration and certification of pre-packaged food. The Standards Committee also developed a roadmap for the implementation of the framework, including the harmonised registration and certification of pre-packaged foods.
MARKUP urges the EAC Partner States to adopt the criteria in order to enjoy the benefits of enhanced intra-EAC trade of pre-packaged food and will support the realisation of the benefits of this tool through sensitisation and training of stakeholders in the public and private sectors.
The criteria include detailed harmonised approaches registration and certification for three types of pre-packaged food:

  1. Pre-packaged food manufactured in conformity to international standards and certified by a national regulatory authority of a Partner State. These products shall be treated as having been certified based on a harmonised EAC standard, thus gaining unhindered access to any other EAC Partner State.
  2. Pre-packaged food manufactured in conformity to national standards, in instances where there are no harmonised East African or international standards. On reaching a port of entry, these products shall be treated as having been certified based on harmonized EA standards, upon fulfilling the following pre-export requirements:
    • The exporting Partner State to notify of the intention to export pre-packaged foods certified based on national standards into the importing Partner State and provide the full text of the standards. 
    • The importing Partner State to provide the exporting Partner State, with a feedback on results of their evaluation, whether, such products may be accepted in the importing country.

This is a very positive move towards enhancing intra-regional trade of pre-packaged foods in the region.

3. Pre-packaged food for which there are no national, regional or international product standards. The procedure and requirements for registration and certification of prepackaged foods with no standards are as follows:

    • Assessment shall be done batchwise and batch certification done as appropriate.
    • Manufacturer shall be required to prove the fitness of each consignment against pre-set quality and safety requirements by conducting tests using a laboratory recognized by a competent authority in the country of origin.
    • The products may, on request of the exporter (who may be the manufacturer), be subjected to batch certification (with clear declaration of the parameters evaluated/tested) by the National Standards Body of the country of origin.
    • At a port of entry, a batch certified product may be detained, sampled or tested and only released upon confirmation of conformance by the importing Partner State.

This is an important step towards facilitating international trade in novel products as it fosters and fast-tracks the development of standards for such products.
The harmonised requirements are provided in the EAC harmonised criteria for registration and certification of pre-packaged food, recently adopted by the EAC Partner States.