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INTRODUCTION (Agenda Item 1)

1. The Second Global Forum of Food Safety Regulators (GF-2) provided an opportunity for food safety regulatory officials from 90 countries to exchange experiences and also discuss actions to improve collaboration on food safety. The Forum was also attended by 10 international governmental and non-governmental organizations and observers having an interest in food safety matters. The list of all participants is attached as Appendix I.

2. Mr Apichart Pongsrihadulchai, Secretary-General, National Bureau of Agricultural Commodity and Food Standards of Thailand extended a most cordial and warm welcome to the participants. He expressed his hope that GF-2 would create better and closer relationships between countries (Appendix II).

3. Ms Kerstin Leitner, Assistant Director-General, Sustainable Development and Healthy Environments, World Health Organization (WHO) welcomed the participants and thanked the Government of the Kingdom of Thailand for hosting GF-2 and the donor countries for their financial support. She reminded delegates of the high incidence of food-borne diseases in both developed and developing countries and their impact on public health systems and economic productivity. The speaker acknowledged that national food safety systems are increasingly utilizing a food chain approach to address food safety issues. She also mentioned several major initiatives in which WHO was involved, together with FAO and other international organizations, such as the Standards and Trade Development Facility (STDF) and the International Food Safety Authorities Network (INFOSAN) (Appendix III).

4. Mr Hartwig de Haen, Assistant Director-General, Economic and Social Department, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) highlighted the importance of the adoption of internationally agreed standards. He underlined that the resulting increase in cost of compliance required a great deal of capacity building and that in order to meet these demands, FAO has been involved in a variety of initiatives. These included the International Portal on Food Safety, Animal and Plant Health, the STDF and, often in cooperation with WHO, the organization of regional food safety conferences and the provision of tools and guidelines. He emphasized that the holistic food chain approach was the most effective way to address food safety problems (Appendix IV).

5. The Forum was opened by H.E. Chaturon Chaisang, Deputy Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand. He referred to the First Global Forum of Food Safety Regulators (Marrakesh, Morocco, 2002) and the FAO/WHO Regional Conferences on Food Safety for Europe and for Asia and the Pacific. He indicated that Thailand's initiative to host GF-2 was reflective of the Government's emphasis on food safety, as 2004 had been named "Food Safety Year" in Thailand. He then drew the attention of the participants to some key issues and underlined that a strong political commitment was needed to implement a clear and effective national strategy (Appendix V).

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