Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Improving food safety standards in Asia requires parallel action on improving regional food security

Improving food safety standards in Asia requires parallel action on improving regional food security

Bangkok, Thailand, 22 May 2014 -- As Asia’s population grows and becomes more affluent and urban based, improvements to food security and food safety will require decisive and coordinated action, a senior FAO official said today.

“Improving food safety and food security are important but complex, multi-dimensional issues,” said Hiroyuki Konuma, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific. “Without assurances of effective, internationally accepted standards and codes of practice in place in this region, food safety concerns can greatly impact trade, the economy and most importantly our nutrition and food security.”

The Asia-Pacific region is home to nearly two-thirds of the world’s 842 million undernourished people. “Achieving food security for all is at the heart of FAO's efforts – to make sure people have regular access to enough high-quality food to lead active, healthy lives,” Konuma said, adding “without food safety, there is no food security.”

Rapid urbanization is a challenge to food security and food safety. While presently half the world’s population live in cities, it’s estimated that figure will climb to 60% by 2030 and nearly 70 percent by 2050. For Southeast Asia, nearly 63 percent of total population is expected to live in urban areas by 2050.

In addition, a rapidly growing middle-income class in Asia will increase six-fold by 2030 from the level observed in 2009. This is another challenge which will drastically change the dietary habits of many people and will be particularly challenging in countries with large populations.

Another of the challenges and uncertainties is the negative impact of climate change and associated impacts to transboundary animal diseases. Infectious human diseases originated from animals which would threaten food safety are expected to increase in the coming decades. Nearly 60 to 70 percent of newly emerged new human infectious diseases originated from animals.    “Internationally acceptable food safety standards, regulations, codes of conduct and establishment of effective monitoring systems and associated policies have become some of the most important measures we have to promote food security,” Konuma said. “These are required in order to ensure the availability of sufficient safe and nutritious food and achievement of food security for all and for our children and future generations.”

As regards food safety and security in the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), future food safety priorities will focus on strengthening coordination between Ministries and departments on food safety, an important area due to the multi-sectoral nature of food safety; focusing on risk-basis and the science behind food standards and controls;  supporting countries to strengthen food import control systems through a risk-based approach; addressing the issue of voluntary and regulatory standards and how there can play a role to develop synergies and strengthen food controls and thereby safer foods.

Konuma noted the need for increased collaboration for use of regional expertise and knowledge in terms of information exchange, awareness and trainings, risk assessments and sharing test facilities. FAO was well-placed to work with ASEAN and other regional organizations in that regard he said.

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Allan Dow, Communication Officer