Your Excellency Dr Yukol Limlaemthong, Minister for Agriculture and Cooperatives, Royal Government of Thailand,
Your Excellency, Mr RittipongTachapunt, Vice Governor of Chaing Mai,
Mr Greg Read, Chair of CCFICS,
Distinguished guests, participants,
Ladies and gentlemen,
On behalf of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO), I wish to express our heartfelt appreciation to the Organizers for inviting me to this important 20th session of the Codex Committee on Food Import and Export Inspection and Certification Systems (or CCFICS as it is commonly known) which is held for the first time in Thailand and the second time in Asia after the first one in Cebu, Philippines in November 2008.
On behalf of FAO and WHO, I wish to take this opportunity to convey our sincere gratitude to the Government of Thailand for hosting this meeting at the beautiful and charming city, Chiang Mai with a great Thai hospitality. I also would like to thank the Australian secretariat for the hard work which led to the successful organization of this extremely important event.
The role of Codex standards in the area of food safety, as you are aware, has become specifically important with the advancement of globalization, trade liberalization as well as the advancement of the role of WTO and SPS Agreement, which references Codex documents as the baseline for the purpose of human health and other associate means. Thus the Codex Alimentarius has become the global reference point for standards for consumers, food producers, processors and national food control agencies as well as the traders who are involved in international food trade. This implies that countries need to, not only develop national standards in line with Codex, but also participate actively in international standards setting.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Officially recognized inspection and certification systems are extremely important part of food control systems. This Committee deals with development of principles and guidance documents for food inspection and certification systems with a view to harmonising methods and procedures which protect the health of consumers’, ensure fair trading practices and facilitate international trade in foodstuffs.
Most of the work had so far focused on food import and export inspection and certification systems in relation to various aspects including the exchange of information in emergency situations and in relation to rejections of imported foods, requirements or formats of official certificates, traceability, development of equivalence agreements and judgement of equivalency, etc. In addition, the Committee has recently started work on the development of a document to draft principles and guidelines for national food control systems. This document which would be very important in providing national governments guidance in the development, operation, evaluation and improvement of the national food control systems will be discussed in this meeting.
FAO and WHO is currently supporting nearly 20 projects in various countries in Asia and the Pacific covering capacity strengthening in different aspects of food safety which include various aspects of standardization as well as inspection and certification activities. These cover aspects of Legislation and regulation, policy initiatives, risk based inspection and certification systems, test facilities and methods, strengthening food safety across value chains, street food safety, strengthening institutional and quality control structure in relation to Geographical Indications, trainings and awareness for a range of stakeholders amongst others.
In addition to regional and country specific projects, a number of important initiatives in relation to food inspection and certification have been implemented in this region in the past year. For example, FAO in collaboration with Bureau of Food Safety, Extension and Support, Ministry of Public Health in Thailand organized a Regional Food safety Policy Consultation for countries in Asia in December 2012. High level political support for food safety as a priority, a food chain approach which addresses safety risks throughout the food continuum, coordination among stakeholders, harmonization with international standards, and enhanced capacity for risk analysis, management and communication were some of key recommendations of this meeting.
Pilots activities to support Thailand and Bangladesh in developing national food safety emergency response plans were also implemented, and the results were shared at the regional meeting in June 2012.
Also, of interest to this committee is the FAO/WHO regional meeting held last year to enhance participation in the International Food Safety Authorities Network across Asia. The meeting developed and agreed to a strategy to continue enhancing INFOSAN in Asia.
As a part of strengthening capacities for inspection and certification in countries of the region, FAO had recently organized a regional training workshop on implementing GAP in fruit and vegetable sector, its certification and accreditation for Greater Mekong Subregion countries. This training which was held in Bangkok covered the GAP requirements based on ASEANGAP as well as the implementation aspects of the GAP for the purpose of getting producers certified to meet GAP standards. The programme was also targeted towards supporting countries in establishing a certification scheme for GAP in line with accreditation standards.
A 3-day Regional training workshop on “Food recall and traceability - Application in National food safety control” was also organized in collaboration with the Government of Japan for ASEAN countries, which has just concluded yesterday. This workshop facilitated better understanding of several Codex documents for practical application in the national food control system.
In addition, with the support of the FAO and WHO Codex Trust Fund, a Regional training programme on Chemical risk analysis is being organized in Beijing from 11-15 March 2013.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It would be safe to say that a considerable progress have been achieved in this region regarding the matters concerned with Codex. The regional organizations such as the ASEAN had achieved commendable work in harmonizing their standards with that of Codex. FAO has been assisting in these efforts through a Japan funded Trust Fund project on support to capacity building and implementation of international food safety standards in ASEAN countries and through FAO’s regular and extra-budgetary programme activities. Our vision is to have whole world, with Asia as a model in enhancing food safety not only for improving human health but also for facilitating regional and global trade. I wish to assure you of FAO’s and WHO’s commitment to continue and further strengthen our efforts and support to member countries in this endeavour.
With these words, I wish a successful deliberations and fruitful outcomes of this important gathering.