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The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is the main United Nations agency specialized in all aspects related to food quality and safety, along the different stages of production, harvest, post-harvest handling, storage, transport, processing and distribution of food. FAO adheres to the food chain approach in managing food safety and quality as a recognition of the responsibility of all actors in the food chain for the supply of food that is safe, healthy and nutritious.

FAO is working on a strategic framework in food safety and quality based on the following three main elements[1]:

a) Universal adoption of a risk-based approach to food safety. The risk approach is scientifically based and requires efficient and appropriate notification systems for food-borne diseases. Food safety relies on the food chain notion which incorporates a cross sector analysis encompassing health related risks for human beings, animal and plants and related topics, such as biosecurity.

b) Emphasis on prevention of food contamination at source, resulting from regulations and food control systems, including development and dissemination of good practices/safety assurance systems throughout the food chain, based on Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) and the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) system.

c) Adoption of a holistic approach to food safety that encompasses the whole food chain (from farm or sea to plate, as it is sometimes known) - and adheres to the FAO definition of a food chain approach in which responsibility for the production of safe food is shared by all actors along the entire food chain.

The Food Quality and Standards Service of the Food and Nutrition Division of FAO is active in building capacities in food quality and safety through:

The present Manual has been prepared as part of the activities undertaken by FAO’s Food Quality and Standards Service, in an effort to strengthen the institutional capacities, both public and private, of Member Countries’ to develop and implement quality assurance and food safety programmes for fresh fruits and vegetables, that are environmentally sustainable and benefit all actors in the chain. While some examples and data used in this manual are taken from the Latin America and Caribbean countries, the manual content is valid for all countries wishing to develop a comprehensive programme for the improvement of the safety and quality of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Comments and suggestions to improve this Manual will be much appreciated and will assist FAO in its efforts to provide authoritative advice and reference materials to its member countries.

Food Quality and Standards Service (ESNS)
Food and Nutrition Division. FAO

[1] Committee on Agriculture, Seventeenth Session. Rome, 31 March - 4 April 2003.

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