Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Hiroyuki Konuma

FAO Regional Representative for Asia-Pacific

He Changchui
Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific
delivered at the

Joint FAO/WHO technical workshop on residues of veterinary drugs without Acceptable Daily Intakes and Maximum Residue Limits

Bangkok, Thailand
24 to 26 August 2004

Dr Ampon Kittiampon, deputy permanent secretary, ministry of agriculture and cooperatives,
Khun Worwate Tamrongtanyalak, secretary general of the National Bureau of Agricultural Commodities and Food Standards,
Distinguished colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen,

On behalf of the Directors-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), it is my pleasure to welcome you to this Joint FAO/WHO technical workshop on residues of veterinary drugs without Acceptable Daily Intakes and Maximum Residue Limits hosted by the government of Thailand. On behalf of both organizations I should like to express our sincere gratitude to the Thai government for the generous offer to host this meeting and for the administrative, technical and financial support they have provided for the organization and implementation of this workshop. I should also like to take this opportunity to thank those governments who are supporting this workshop by contributing to the travel costs of the experts invited to this meeting.

Dear experts,

I wish to thank you for accepting the invitation from the joint secretariat of the meeting to study and discuss during the coming three days certain food safety issues that are of specific relevance to countries from this region. A number of Southeast Asian countries have developed successful food export activities during the past decade which helped them to raise the quantity and quality of food supplied to both export and local markets. These food exports contribute significantly to the national economy of the countries, generating additional income for farmers and other sectors involved in the production of food. This is an important achievement for the countries in line with our shared concern for raising levels of nutrition, improving agricultural productivity, and enhancing the livelihoods of rural populations.

The export of foods requires a well-defined and reliable set of international standards to be followed by producers and target markets. To a large extent this framework is developed in the form of the Codex Alimentarius, a result of the joint FAO/WHO Food Standards Programme initiated more than 40 years ago. The main concern of this joint programme is to ensure quality and safety of food for consumer protection and fair practices in food trade. In this connection, the Codex Alimentarius Commission develops and adopts science-based international food standards and related instruments for use by governments. Part of this work comprises rules and standards for the use of veterinary drugs in food animals and the residues resulting from them.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Trade problems that occurred two years ago show that there remain aspects of the use of veterinary drugs in food animals and the resulting residues which need further consideration. As you will remember, at the end of 2001 and during the first months of 2002 several laboratories in the European Union detected trace amounts of chloramphenicol and nitrofurans in imported animal products – such as shrimps and chicken – originating from Asian countries. As a consequence, a number of countries were at least temporarily removed from the list of approved exporters to the European Union. This resulted in significant financial losses for the agricultural sector and the national economies of the exporting countries. It is within this context that you are meeting here during the coming days to provide WHO and FAO, and the Codex Alimentarius Commission, with a first analysis of these disruptions in food trade in 2001/2002, to identify the scientific, technical and regulatory problems related to them, and to discuss possible appropriate follow-up steps.

I should like to stress that you have been invited to this meeting in your personal capacities as international experts, with the responsibility of serving and advising the two sponsoring specialized United Nations’ Organizations, WHO and FAO, and not as representatives of your governments, institutes or any other organization. We therefore are confident that the outcome of the consultations of the meeting will reflect your outstanding professional qualifications and the best of your scientific judgement. I take this opportunity to point out the consultative nature of the meeting and the consequent need for dialogue and understanding. WHO and FAO look forward to a consensus outcome of the meeting and the formulation of generally agreed recommendations and suggested actions for consideration by countries, the Codex Alimentarius Commission and other specialized bodies dealing with food safety. From our side, the organizing UN specialized agencies should like to emphasize that the meeting forms an integral part of an ongoing process which aims to achieve full participation and involvement of all interested parties as well as a clear guidance for our future work in this regard.

Distinguished colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen,

In closing, I should like to comment our host, the government of Thailand, on their initiative of designating 2004 as the Year of Food Safety. I trust that the subject of this meeting will further contribute to promoting and reinforcing policy and regulatory frameworks for food products and, in the same veil, creating sustainable increases in the supply and availability of food and other products from the crop, livestock, fisheries and forestry sectors in the countries of the region. Let us thus keep in mind the overriding need for integrated agricultural production systems, through the promotion of good agricultural practices for specific production systems in selected agro-ecozones. From the farm to the table, our aim is to enhance the integration of production, processing, packaging, transport and storage of marketable commodities and value-added products from the farm through to the consumer. This way, we are jointly working in meeting the commitments under the World Food Summit Plan of Action for access of all people at all times to sufficient nutritionally adequate and safe food, and ensuring that the number of chronically undernourished people is reduced by half by no later than 2015.

It remains for me therefore to wish you a very successful meeting and a pleasant stay in Bangkok.

Thank you.