FAO/WHO Global Forum of Food Safety Regulators
Improving Efficiency and Transparency in Food Safety Systems
Officials from Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) have participated in and contributed to numerous bilateral or multilateral meetings, workshops and projects in efforts to provide training and capacity building to developing countries. Recent training seminars and workshops were conducted by Health Canada and CFIA officials on procedures in conducting food safety and environmental assessments of foods derived from biotechnology. This led to the development and conducting of a number of hands-on workshops using actual case studies of the assessment of a genetically modified food as the next step in improving the capacity building process. This hands-on approach was used at a number of international workshops sponsored by different international organizations. Future joint sessions are now under consideration and a working group, headed by Canada with the participation of other countries, was established to develop an outline for a pilot training session involving food safety assessment. Canadian lessons which were learned during these recent training initiatives include some of the following aspects: hands-on practical training provides the best opportunity in advancing training on food safety and environmental assessment; attendance at the training sessions will be facilitated with good coordination between the different food control agencies of developing countries; countries or organizations sponsoring the right individuals with the right qualifications will increase the transfer of training skills to their sponsoring countries; standardized train-the-trainer courses will ensure consistency and uniformity in application of training methods and international standards; joint training initiatives involving other developed countries will enhance the coordination and delivery of international training courses and workshops; and capacity building will be enhanced if the recipient countries take ownership in the training activities and invest in long-term infrastructure development.
Over the recent two decades, food safety in China has improved greatly overall. These achievements are the results of capacity building in government control agencies and also industries, including technical assistance from international organizations. This paper describes the implementation of two programmes on street food control by the Ministry of Health, China. FAO sponsored a pilot programme on improving the safety of street food in cities and WHO sponsored a programme on the improvement of street food safety through the application of HACCP principles, as examples to demonstrate the contribution of technical assistance provided by international organizations to the progress of food safety control in developing countries. The implementation of the above two international technical assistance programmes combined the advanced measures of food safety control with Chinese traditional control methods and proved to be very effective in improving the hygienic status of street foods. These two programmes could serve as model examples of successful international technical assistance. The following experiences were learned from the implementation of these two programmes. The programme selected for technical assistance will be the prioritized food safety issue of that country or area. The local government or authority should be aware of the importance of the problems to be solved. This is critical for the success of the programme as only in this case will strong resources and manpower support to the programme be provided by the local government or authority. The implementation of the programme will have a detailed plan and design. The preparation of programme plan and design per se is a process of personnel training and technical support. In the above two programmes, programme experts not only conducted plan preparation, training and guidance, but also carried out field visits and provided assistance in the preparation of summary report. The selected programme should be able to sustain and fit to the economy and social development of the specific country. The street food programme conducted in China is in line with the plan of hygiene city and hygiene town in China, which is an important prerequisite for the success of these programmes.
The paper gives a list of recently provided technical assistance by international organisations on food control systems and food quality/safety. In particular, the participation of FAO and UNIDO is highlighted. The paper describes an on-going FAO project on "Strengthening the National Food Control Structure". This project led to the establishment of the national Inter-Ministerial Committee in charge of the implementation of official food control programmes. Future actions are to undertake a communication campaign on education in food safety and social mobilisation to related issues; to continue improvements in prioritised sectors; to organise seminars or courses for food handlers (GHP, GMP and HACCP); to improve the sanitary environment; to create a national Codex Committee as suggested by the inter-ministerial committee; to set up a documentation center (technical and scientific publications, international standards); to develop a support programme to food industries in order to promote or reinforce quality assurance systems and their recognition through officially recognized certification, to support consumer associations in their activities.
The paper describes the efforts of the Mongolian government over the last ten years to introduce capacity building and HACCP development. However, to date no food industry has introduced HACCP to assure food safety apart from the meat industry. Collaboration with national authorities to promote food safety education in schools and universities should be one of the important strategies to improve food safety in developing countries. It is also essential to strengthen coordination and collaboration between food control agencies and facilitate a multisectoral approach for food safety through the establishment of a national insectoral coordinating committee. The paper recommends that both government and international agencies seek and support an effective mechanism of cooperation to improve the effectiveness of technical assistance on food safety.
The United States supports food safety technical cooperation and assistance to developing countries, directly or coordinated with relevant international organizations, to enhance the safety of foods available to all consumers and to contribute to economic development by strengthening sustainable production systems and export markets. Technical cooperation activities that have been undertaken by the United States include technical training, programs and consultations in such areas as national regulatory and enforcement frameworks, and consumer education. Lessons learned include: a) Consideration should be given to how desired outcomes can be sustained; b) Criteria should be developed to ensure resources are used appropriately and effectively; c) Food safety education strategies should be multi-layered and prioritized; and d) Strengthening food safety systems requires self-assessment, the involvement of donor organizations, and improved coordination of technical assistance activities.
The Vietnam Food Administration is responsible for managing food hygiene, safety, and quality and has made significant progress since its establishment in 1999. Food safety remains a high priority in Vietnam with the growth of export markets and increasing food imports raising the need to rapidly build capacity of the Food Administration in order to reduce threats of foodborne disease. The Food Administration has demonstrated commitment to the food safety challenges it faces, and has embarked on an innovative capacity building activity with technical assistance from the World Health Organization.
The document describes food legislation and food control in Morocco and then gives a list of examples of technical assistance/cooperation (bilateral with France, Canada and Germany and with FAO). It proposes the development of tools to facilitate the capacity building and technical assistance effort and through new approaches such as partnerships in the field of food safety and food control. The document recommends a) the creation of an independent scientific body responsible for food safety and risk assessment; b) the development of the food control system throughout the food chain; c) the implementation of a traceability system so as to guarantee the effective retrieval and removal from the market of unsafe food; d) the need for prompt FAO study on the feasibility of establishing a unique Food Inspection and Control Agency; e) the improvement of national laboratory facilities and capabilities; f) capacity building of the food testing laboratories to face evolution in technology and food control requirements (Dioxins, PCBs, GMOs, HAP,...) including training and human resource development programmes; g) the need to set up a national coordinated training programme for food inspectors; h) long-standing education, information and sensitization actions towards consumers regarding food safety concerns; i) the support given to consumer associations; j) the increase of government assistance to small and medium size food industries in their challenge to produce safer food and to ensure quality of Moroccan food products; k) the awareness raising among food retailers about their role and responsibility over the safety of their products; l) the scientific evaluation of sanitary (safety) and nutritional quality of traditional foods and spring, river and well waters used in particular in rural areas and the status of sewage treatment infrastructures and domestic wastes and other waste facilities and economic impacts of pollution from cities; and m) the need for more integrated approach in FAO technical assistance projects.
The document explains how food safety has become a new and understood concept since Burundi has been facing a regular decrease of its domestic production in relation to the political troubles that have been rocking the country since 1993, forcing the import of more products and the control of their quality and safety. Prior to 1993, the majority of food was consumed as fresh and/or raw although the food availability had not been satisfactory since 1969. The absence of any sensitization programme for food handlers and consumers is highlighted. Farmers are using intensively chemicals without any specific training and/or control to ensure the application of good agricultural practices and good practice in the use of veterinary drugs in Burundi. It is recommended that technical assistance and capacity in Burundi be focused on laboratory facilities and related human resources and expertise; training and education of official staff (inspectors) involved in food quality control.
The role consumer organizations can play in strengthening the capacity and effectiveness of food safety and control systems in developing countries cannot be underestimated. From the standards setting process to the monitoring of foods in the marketplace, consumer organisations provide a critical yet neutral voice in supporting government efforts to improve the safety that consumers demand in the market place. Their involvement furthers consumer confidence in government systems and processes. However for them to play their full role, more work is needed to build the capacity of these organizations and also to ensure that their voice is heard within policy making processes. Consumers International has been successful in strengthening consumer organizations ability to contribute to food safety issues. However, these efforts need support directly from the Codex Alimentarius. Consumers International acknowledges the trust fund proposed by both FAO and WHO and are hopeful that some of the proceeds from this fund will be used to address the issues on capacity building of consumer organizations raised by this paper.
New approaches in technical assistance are strongly required due to the entry into force of the WTO Agreement for the Application of SPS Measures (SPS Agreement) which implies binding consequences regarding rights and obligations of every single country willing to put food on the international market in terms quality and safety. The technical fields which would require an immediate technical assistance in Côte d'Ivoire are: a) training needs of personnel involved in food control (only 20 official veterinary inspectors and 200 technicians for the whole country); b) capacity building in infrastructures and equipment (logistics, supplies, computer/IT, and supporting structures) to ensure safety for exported food and domestic produced/consumed food; c) needs for demonstrating the equivalence of Ivorian food inspection and certification systems (by mutual recognition); d) training needs of food handlers (especially in small/medium sized food industry to GHP, GMP and HACCP principles) and consumers (pedagogic educational tools to non visible food contamination). Innovative and specific suggestions are made to donors and to the three international standardization bodies ("three sisters" of the SPS Agreement, i.e., Codex Alimentarius Commission, OIE and IPPC) to take fully into consideration the needs expressed by developing countries, including the least developed ones.
This document describes Eritrea's attempts to reconstruct their food control infrastructures and their efforts in capacity building in the field of disease prevention and eradication and in upgrading their inspection and laboratory techniques. Rural development is a high priority in Eritrea and one of the main objectives is to achieve greater food security and raise farming incomes. The introduction of technical aid, mechanized farming and proper land use has resulted in economic growth for the country. Eritrea's available resources are limited and depend to a large extent on agreements with external funding sources and donor agencies, (principally the African Development Bank, the National Livestock Development Programme, DANIDA through their Agricultural Sector Support Programme and the EU through the Pan-African Control of Epizootic Diseases Programme) . The Government has undertaken the responsibility for controlling nationally important diseases and is encouraging private veterinary practices and community-based animal health care in order to provide farmers ready access to both animal health and production services. The document stresses Eritrea's need for financial and technical support in order to strengthen their food control systems, especially for export oriented food products. There are currently no systematic food quality control measures as these activities are spread over different ministries, but only basic food control measures and inspections are being practised.
According to recent statistics, Trinidad and Tobago is an emerging country which has considerable environmental problems. Like most countries, the Government is concerned about food safety, food security and achieving HACCP standards. The document summarizes the responsibilities assumed by the different units of the Ministries of Health and Agriculture, Land and Marine Resources. In recognition of the number of institutions involved in food control matters, the government realises that a multi-ministerial, multi-discliplinary approach needs to be taken with the full backing of the political leadership. Steps have already been taken in this direction, but much more needs to be done.
The document gives an overview of the food safety control system in Uganda and highlights some of the urgent issues which require attention, such as foodborne illness resulting from sanitation failures in food production, processing, retailing and handling; basic food hygiene due to lack of necessary sanitation infrastructure; import of processed foods; obsolete food laws and lack of resources which hamper the current food control system. Details are provided on the EU inspection mission to Uganda and the problems that local inspectors are encountering in carrying out their duties due to lack of clear guidelines and standard operating practices and out of date laws and regulations. The document presents Uganda's achievements in the area of food safety and health, due in part to support from donor agencies, and describes current endeavours towards the development of an effective national food safety control system.
This document provides a brief summary of new approaches being implemented by US regulatory agencies in capacity building and technical assistance around the world, with emphasis in the Americas. Aims of the work are: protecting public health; enhancing regional/national regulatory systems; and, developing structures and processes. The three projects described (the Caribbean Food Safety Initiative, the University of Puerto Rico Project and the Food Laboratories Network) all seek to capitalize on the unique strengths of participating organizations. The difficulties of participant and donor coordination, financial and technical needs, and sustainability of action are key lessons that have been learned from these projects.