Dear delegates from the countries of Asia, ladies and gentlemen.
It is my pleasure to welcome you on behalf of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations to this training course on the development of food standards within a risk analysis framework.
It is well-known by the countries of the region that food safety is an important issue, for many reasons, including the following:
- Ensuring safe and healthy food is an important precondition of food security. It is essential for improving human life in all countries, whether developed or developing.
- The costs incurred in each outbreak of food borne illness include a number of direct and indirect costs. In developed countries, the average estimated cost is US$100/person/year and the cost could be even greater in developing countries. The death toll of food borne illnesses is staggering: just diarrhoea caused by contaminated food and unclean water kills 1.8 million people per year.
- Practices aimed at improving food safety also reduce food losses, thus increasing food availability. A number of advanced technologies and practical control measures are available for countries to improve the safety of food, thus extending its usable life.
- Countries of the region are well aware of the importance of food safety for both exports and imports. Food exports provide an important source of foreign- earned income for many countries of the region, while at the same time, many food products are imported into the region and must be safe and wholesome.
The importance that the countries represented here today place on food safety and the development of modern, risk-based food standards is evident by your response to the needs assessment survey that was sent by FAO in July 2005 and by your efforts to attend this training course. The countries represented today are also very active in the Codex Alimentarius Commission, both at the regional and international level, which is commendable.
As many of you will recall, FAO and WHO held a Regional Conference on Food Safety for Asia and the Pacific in Seremban, Malaysia from 24-27 May 2004. This Conference underlined the importance of risk- based standards and recommended that FAO and WHO implement training and capacity building for the countries of the region in the development of food standards. This training course is being implemented in response to these recommendations.
The training course is sponsored by the Standards and Trade Development Facility (STDF). The STDF is a global programme in capacity building and technical assistance to assist developing countries in trade and SPS measures established by FAO, the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), the World Bank, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Trade Organization (WTO).
This training course is part of a pilot programme, being implemented by FAO, in collaboration with WHO, to increase the capacity of the low income countries of Asia to:
- develop their own food standards;
- participate in the Codex standard-setting process; and
- understand and comply with, in the development of these standards, international obligations under the relevant WTO Agreements.
The proposed outline for the week is available in front of you. Training materials have also been prepared for all the participants. The course is intended to be a hands-on opportunity for the participants to discuss and actually draft risk-based food standards, so we encourage your active participation.
A follow- up survey will be administered to all participants four months after the course, which will be utilized in the refinement of the training course. The template for the development and implementation of this course will then be applied to other regions of the world.
Ms Londa Vanderwal of the FAO Food Quality and Standards Service will now provide you with more details on the implementation of the training course.
Thank you again for coming and I look forward to the outcome of your deliberations.