Food safety and quality
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Needs assessment

Trucks transporting poultry going through a routine inspection at the check-point of the Lopburi Provincial Animal Quarantine Station, Thailand ┃ © FAO / Bay Ismoyo
Preventative approaches to food safety requires effective controls along the chain

Developing the capacities of member countries to effectively manage food safety and quality is key to safeguarding consumer’s health and well-being as well as to supporting economic development by promoting access to domestic, regional and international markets.

Official food control systems are the means through which government-led regulatory activities are implemented to ensure that all foods are safe, wholesome and fit for human consumption, and are honestly and accurately labelled. Food control systems will be tailored to the country’s specific needs and priorities and key pillars will include: food legislation and regulations, policy and institutional frameworks, food inspection and monitoring, food laboratory services and dissemination of information to all stakeholders. The private sector and consumers play a crucial role in ensuing the overall goals are reached, and their views and capacities need to be considered. Communication between government, private sector and consumers is essential.

While the specifics of systems will vary from country to country, there are some well accepted principles including - the importance of science and use of the risk analysis framework for food safety decision making, control and prevention along the entire food chain, and the primary responsibility by food chain operators to ensure safe, quality foods. A well planned and structured food control system should lead to an appropriate national system developed in line with international approaches, harmonised with Codex standards and WTO requirements.

In determining the best actions and priority issues to be addressed to strengthen food control systems, assessment tools to determine existing capacities and strengths and weaknesses provide an important support to countries.

What we do

We work with concerned stakeholders at international, national and local levels from both public and private sectors in identifying weaknesses in the management of food safety, in formulating strategies that promote the application of good Practices along the food chain and in ensuring compliance with national and international food safety requirements. The group engages in a number of capacity development activities and programmes, including:

  • Development of policy support tools to guide planning and investment in national food control systems
  • Technical advice for the development and improvement of integrated and modern food control systems
  • Support to field projects addressing food safety and quality issues that have been prioritised by member countries
  • Enhance effective participation in the work of the Codex Alimentarius Commission and other international fora
  • Address emerging food safety issues including new technologies applied in food and agriculture (e.g. nanotechnologies)
  • Development of technical tools and guides related to various technical and managerial aspects of food control including: risk analysis; food laboratories, food sampling and inspection, food safety/quality management, traceability, specific quality schemes and consumer awareness and education