The publication Assuring Food Safety and Quality: Guidelines for Strengthening National Food Control Systems was prepared to enable national authorities, particularly in developing countries, to improve their food control systems.
These Guidelines replace the earlier FAO/WHO publication Guidelines for Developing an Effective National Food Control System (1976) - FAO Food Control Series No. 1; WHO Food Control No. 1. For over 25 years this publication has been the definitive reference for developing countries in planning, organizing, and implementing their national food control programmes. Much has changed in the intervening period. There have been advances in the control of foodborne hazards as well as improvements in food inspection and surveillance systems. Globalization of the food supply chain, the increasing importance of the Codex Alimentarius Commission, and the obligations emerging from the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreements have resulted in unprecedented interest in the development of food standards and regulations, and the strengthening of food control infrastructure at the country level.
The challenges for food control authorities include:
Increasing burden of foodborne illness and new and emerging foodborne hazards;
Rapidly changing technologies in food production, processing and marketing;
Developing science-based food control systems with a focus on consumer protection;
International food trade and need for harmonization of food safety and quality standards;
Changes in lifestyles, including rapid urbanization; and
Growing consumer awareness of food safety and quality issues and increasing demand for better information.
Globally, the incidence of foodborne diseases is increasing and international food trade is disrupted by frequent disputes over food safety and quality requirements. Many food control systems need to be revised and strengthened if improvements are to be realized. It has never been more important for developing countries to implement and enforce a food control system based on the modern concept of risk assessment. These Guidelines provide important information on the principles and practices of food control and the trend away from a merely punitive to a preventive approach to food control.
Responsibility for food control in most countries is shared between different agencies or ministries. The roles and responsibilities of these agencies may be quite different and duplication of regulatory activity, fragmented surveillance and a lack of coordination are common. There may also be wide variations in expertise and resources between the different agencies, and the responsibility for protecting public health may conflict with obligations to facilitate trade or develop an industry or sector.
These Guidelines provide information for government agencies to assist in the development of national food control systems and to promote effective collaboration between all sectors involved in the management and control of food safety and quality. They highlight the importance of developing effective relationships and mutual support among government agencies and institutions involved in food control and other stakeholders, particularly the food industry and consumer groups.