Mr Hirokawa, Representative of the Government of Japan Distinguished delegates,
Ladies and gentlemen, and
It is my pleasure to welcome you, on behalf of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, to the FAO regional workshop: “SPS Measures and their Impact on Food Inspection and Certification including Managerial Aspects” and join FAO colleagues in thanking your valuable participation despite your busy schedule.
This workshop is held as part of the regional project “Enhancing Food Safety by Strengthening Food Inspection Systems in ASEAN Countries” which started in 2007. The objective of the project is to strengthen food inspection systems by making ASEAN countries recognise and comply with international standards and guidelines on food safety.
The project has been formulated by FAO with generous financial contributions from the Government of Japan. On behalf of FAO, I would like to express my gratitude and appreciation for the support given by the Japanese Government, especially for the support to enhance food safety in ASEAN countries.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Food safety is of growing concern in all parts of the world, and recent events in ASEAN countries has shown that our region is in no way exempt from other parts of the globe.
As you are aware, a significant number of people die every year all over the world, including many children, as a result of infections they get from the food they eat. Furthermore, the growing pressure of demand on food supply, price instability and lack of proper handling and distribution systems could lead to potentially serious food quality and safety problems.
I would like to emphasize the importance of food safety. Ensuring safe and healthy food is an important precondition for food security. Please recall the number of people suffering from hunger has reached more than 1 billion, and that FAO and member countries pledged renewed commitment to eradicate hunger from the earth at the earliest date. Food safety is essential and fundamental requirement for human life in all countries and all people irrespective of rich or poor.
Another important aspect of food safety is trade facilitation. Food safety is one of the non-tariff barriers preventing the promotion of international trade.I know ASEAN countries are well aware of the importance of food safety for both food export and import. In this context, SPS measures with regard to food inspection and certification are drawing specifically important attention as a tool to ensure both good food quality and good food safetyas well as for promoting international trade. We can say that this regional workshop we are convening here today aims to meets this demand.
The specific objectives of today’s workshop are:
1) To enhance understanding of SPS measures and their impact on food inspection and certification
2) To discuss how to manage food inspection and certification at central and local level, and how to develop regional cooperation for SPS measures
3) To exchange information about opportunities and constraints for SPS measures with regard to food inspection and certification
4) To identify capacity building needs and priorities for follow-up assistance such as training courses
Please note that, in meeting these food safety challenges, FAO assists public and private sectors, and academia to develop strategies for improving food safety and hygiene. We should not forget that a great number of children die due to diarrhea and food borne diseases, a part of which is resulted from food contamination and lack of hygiene. FAO implements various programmes and projects which address various issues related to food safety, international trade, food regulations, dietary standards, and partnership development that affect food security, nutrition and health of people, especially the poor and disadvantaged groups including children.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Indeed, ASEAN countries have made remarkable progress in improving food safety for their people and increasing the competitiveness of their food and agricultural products to boost food exports. However, these achievements need to be strengthened and further expanded. Countries must also invest more in food safety, not only to promote food export earings and to improve regional trade opportunities, but also to protect the health of consumers including own consumers in their countries. For this purpose, regional cooperation and exchange of information at all levels must be strengthened.
I trust that this workshop will provide to ASEAN countries a good opportunity to share information and lessons learned regarding food control systems in general and food inspection and certification systems in particular, and to identify needs and priorities for capacity building activities at national and regional levels.
In this connection, I wish this meeting to move a step beyond the discussion and learning venue, but wish the meeting come up with concrete action plan with time frame on:
1. harmonization of food inspection system and regulatory framework
2. harmonization of laboratory testing methodology
3. enhancing regional networking
4. implemenation of capacity building training
Finally, I wish you a successful workshop and look forward to the success outcome of your deliberations in this crucial field of food safety and I will look forward to receiving the outcomes of the meeting including above four key areas.