Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Improving food safety and quality in the Mekong region

the Lao People's Democratic Republic, 10 Feb 2005 -- Vientiane - With a grant of $850 000 provided by New Zealand, FAO will assist Cambodia, Lao PDR and Viet Nam over the next three years to improve food safety and quality by reducing the prevalence of food-borne diseases and enhance exports of food products from the three countries.

During a ceremony today at the ministry of health attended by Bounkouang Phichit, vice minister of health, Leena Kirjavainen, FAO representative and Steve Dowall, representative of New Zealand Agency for International Development (NZAID) a project agreement was signed with the government of Lao People’s Democratic Republic aimed at improving food safety and quality in the country.

NZAID is providing a grant of US$850 000 over three years for the project Improving food safety and its management in Cambodia, Lao PDR and Viet Nam. In Laos, the project – amounting to US$275.725 – will be implemented by the ministry of health and the ministry of agriculture and forestry in cooperation with FAO and the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The overall purpose of the project is to improve consumer health, by reducing the prevalence of food-borne disease, and enhance exports of food products from the three countries.

“Working with the Food and Drug Department of the ministry of health, FAO will assist to develop appropriate national food safety legislation, policies, regulations, and strategies”, said Leena Kirjavainen, the FAO representative in Lao PDR.

The ministry of agriculture and forestry and other relevant government agencies with responsibilities in food safety and quality will be involved in project activities as appropriate.

“The project will fund the purchase of much-needed equipment for testing laboratories and provide training to inspection personnel and food inspectors in areas such as food analysis, inspection processes and risk analysis”, Dr Kirjavainen said.

Training will be provided to inform small and medium sized enterprises, food handlers and market places about basic food hygiene, food regulations and quality assurance systems such as Good Agriculture Practices (GAP), Good Hygiene Practices (GHP), Good Manufacturing Practices and Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP).