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FAO Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia

Countries discussed food safety regulations and controls

Consumers need assurance that if a food product is available on the market and out in shops, it safe to eat. This requires effective, enforceable, and inclusive national food regulations that protect consumer health and ensure fair practices in the food trade.

A two-day FAO regional meeting happened last week in Belgrade, that brought experts together from eight countries to focus on appropriate regulations and policy solutions to assure food safety and quality in all food-related businesses. The meeting is part of FAO’s region-wide effort to improve agrifood trade and market integration.

In the past decade, many countries in Southern and Eastern Europe and Western and Central Asia have transformed their national food control systems, including substantial modernization of food law and regulations based on international trends. The FAO meeting provided a forum to share good practices, proven solutions, and lessons learned from public and private initiatives within the transformation to more appropriate regulations and their implementation.

One of the main issues discussed by meeting participants was the root causes of challenges, specifically for smallholders and small- and medium-sized food businesses, arising from new food safety regulations. In addition to producing the vast majority of food consumed in the region, many are struggling to comply with national and international food safety and quality requirements.

“Setting food safety policy and appropriate regulations calls for a balance between the interests of governments and the private sector, including small- and medium-sized businesses, versus the right of consumers to safe food,” said Mary Kenny, FAO food safety and consumer protection officer.

Food safety is the responsibility of everyone involved, therefore, the collaboration and contributions of all actors in the food supply chain, as well as good governance and regulations, are essential. Public bodies are responsible for establishing and managing an enabling institutional, policy, and regulatory framework for food safety, in addition to carrying out food control activities that protect consumers from risks associated with unsafe food and fraudulent practices.

“It is important that food safety policymakers have a clear understanding of the situation at the national level to make informed decisions, so that effective national food law and regulations can be put into place, and food businesses can supply consumers with safe food,” added Kenny. “In the ideal case, the public and private sectors all work together to ensure food safety. The recommendations of the meeting aim to support this.”

Ultimately, creating a favorable environment for the competitiveness of small- and medium-sized food businesses helps to foster creation of quality jobs, increase wages, reduce poverty and inequality, protect the national food culture and heritage, and ensure diversity in domestic food markets.

2 December 2019, Belgrade, Serbia

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