COMMITTEE ON WORLD FOOD SECURITY
Rome, 28 May - 1 June 2001
FOOD SAFETY AND QUALITY RECENT FAO-LED INITIATIVES
This brief note provides information on the FAO/WHO planned Global Forum of Food Safety Regulators, the first meeting of which will be held in October 2001; Pan-European Conference on Food Safety and Quality, tentatively planned to be held in Budapest 18-21 February 2002; and, Joint WHO/FAO/OIE Technical Consultation on BSE, Public Health and Trade, to be held in Paris, 11-14 June 2001.
The Committee may wish to take note of these initiatives in the field of food safety
and quality under its Agenda Item VI, Other Matters, and to recommend their endorsement to
the 120th Session of Council.
A. GLOBAL FOOD SAFETY FORUM
B. PAN-EUROPEAN CONFERENCE ON FOOD SAFETY AND QUALITY
C. JOINT WHO/FAO/OIE TECHNICAL CONSULTATION ON BSE, PUBLIC HEALTH AND TRADE, PARIS, 11-14 JUNE 2001
1. At the beginning of the new millennium, public attention in many countries is drawn to the transformation of the global food system, particularly new technologies and increased food trade. At the same time, lack of access to existing tools for protecting food supplies and health continue to plague much of the world. These widespread and diverse problems challenge those who endeavour to ensure that food supplies are of adequate quality and safety and available to all people at all times.
2. Food safety and quality have become issues of keen interest and concern for consumers, producers and policy makers. Several recent food safety incidents have seriously weakened consumer's confidence in the food supply. They have disturbed the stability of food supply markets and could affect food security.
3. Food safety and quality have become subjects of concern for consumers, producers and policy makers in the recent years. Several food safety related incidents such as the Bovine Spongiform Encepalopathy (BSE) crisis and dioxin contamination of food products of animal origin have diminished consumers' confidence in management of the food supply chain. These incidents can lead to instability of food markets. Other problems include the lack of awareness of new hazards and lack of acceptance of technologies which may be contribute to food security. Therefore FAO is taking the lead in several large initiatives to enhance food safety and quality worldwide. In these efforts, FAO is collaborating with WHO and other concerned organizations.
4. FAO and WHO are convening a Global Forum of Food Safety Regulators. The main purpose of the Global Forum is to promote the exchange of information and experience on ways and means to deal with food safety concerns of potential importance to public health and international food trade. The Global Forum aims to advance the process of science-based public consultations and to facilitate capacity building in the field of food safety control. On the basis of the experience gained at this Forum, subsequent fora may be considered. These meetings/fora will discuss subjects such as: experiences in the reduction of food-borne hazards; communicating food safety regulations and risk management procedures; scientific basis for food safety regulations; interactions between food safety risk assessors and risk managers; ensuring compliance with food safety regulations; emerging food-borne illnesses; new inspection models - implications for food safety regulations; experiences with the implementation of Codex standards and guidelines; and trans-boundary consequences of food safety emergencies.
5. The first meeting of the Global Forum of Food Safety Regulators will take place in October 2001. The Global Forum will not be a decision making body, nor will it duplicate the work of the Codex Alimentarius Commission or organizations. It will bring together officials involved in the regulation of food safety and risk management from all member countries of FAO and WHO. Representatives of international organizations will be invited to this Global Forum. Non-governmental organizations representing consumers, producers, the food-industry and trade interests will be involved in the discussions as well. A Preparatory Meeting with representatives of all the regions will take place on 10 and 11 May 2001, at FAO, Rome.
6. The 22nd Session of the FAO Regional Conference for Europe (Porto, July 2000) endorsed the proposal made by the Minister of Agriculture of the Netherlands to organise a Conference on Food Safety and Quality for the entire European region. In addition, it requested that similar conferences be organised for other FAO regions.
7. The main objective of the Pan-European Conference is to promote the creation of a platform for mutual understanding of food safety and quality problems among the countries of the European region through institutional co-operation and the exchange of information on policy and technical issues of relevance to food safety in the region. The Conference aims at providing an opportunity for countries to discuss measures to improve the reliability of the European food production and distribution system and restoring consumer confidence in the safety of food products.
8. Furthermore, the Conference will discuss the feasibility of establishing a Pan-European information and communication system on food safety. For example, a Mechanism for Information Exchange on Food Safety and Animal and Plant Health and a Pan-European Rapid Alert System could be established.
9. A Steering Committee, composed of representatives of member countries and concerned international organizations, has been established to assist in the preparation of the Conference. The steering committee met in Rome in November 2000. An open-ended Preparatory Meeting is scheduled to be held in Rome on 4 May 2001 to discuss organizational details and agree on the substantive matters to be addressed by the Conference.
10. The Conference will probably be held in Budapest from 18-21 February 2002, in collaboration with WHO.
11. Work is in progress to hold the above-named Consultation which will review the scientific information available on BSE and address outstanding questions related to this animal disease and its transmission to humans in the form of vCJD. The Consultation will provide member countries with clear and workable recommendations relevant to:
12. Participants will include BSE specialists, veterinary and medical experts, NGOs, representatives of stakeholder organizations, consumer associations, other international organizations, experts from developing countries, and national food control and public health authorities.