Wamwari Waichungo

Martins Ifijeh

The Vice President, Global Scientific and Regulatory Affairs, Coca-Cola Company, Atlanta, United States, Dr. Wamwari Waichungo has called on Nigeria to take issues of food safety and regulation seriously in other to drive the country’s economy.

She said the country needs scientific discipline on handling, preparation and storage of food in other to prevent food borne illness, adding that this will add to customer confidence for patronising local foods and beverages.

Waichungo, who spoke at the Coca-Cola sponsored 41st Conference and Annual General Meeting of the Nigerian Institute of Food Science and Technology (NIFST) in Abuja Tuesday, said when the quality of foods and other products meet international standards, Nigerians will no longer prefer to buy products abroad.

“I worked for several years in Nigeria before I left for Atlanta, and what is easily noticed is that hardly you find anything sourced locally in Nigeria, yet the country is very green with high rainfall. For this to change, there must be conscious efforts, not only by food scientists or other members of the value chain, but the government as well. They should be involved through policies and implementations.

“I know Nigeria has enough flower or cassava that can be processed into juice and foods, but we need to ensure we invest in factories that will also help preserve and increase their shelf lives.”

Providing a way out, the food scientist said government should introduce incentives and policies, as this has worked in several countries that have grown their local industries.

She said there should be agricultural incentives to build agricultural products, or incentives to build factory facilities. “Then, there should be disincentives on importation of such products. With incentive and disincentive, the market will be much more competitive, and then benefit local production eventually,” she said.

On the belief by many Nigerians that the coke in the formula in the country’s coke was different from the ones in developed countries like the US, she said coke anywhere in the world contains the same formula. “The sugar content is the same as well. What might be different is the type of water, and sizes or types of cans/bottles.”

Waichungo also called on Nigerians to lead healthy lifestyles, as sedentary life, lack of exercise, among others contributes to non communicable diseases.