SECOND FAO/WHO GLOBAL FORUM OF FOOD SAFETY
Dr Hartwig de Haen, Assistant Director-General of FAO,
Dr Kerstin Leitner, Assistant Director-General of WHO,
Honourable Regional Representatives of FAO and WHO,
Your Excellencies, Honoured Guests,
Distinguished Participants, Experts, Ladies and Gentlemen,
On behalf of the Royal Thai Government, I take great pleasure in welcoming each of you to Bangkok for FAO's and WHO's "Second Global Forum of Food Safety Regulators."
I would like to start by congratulating FAO and WHO on the success of their "First Global Forum of Food Safety Regulators" hosted by Morocco in 2002, and followed by a series of "Regional Conferences on Food Safety," held thus far in Hungary and Malaysia. This series of events provide great opportunities for the international community of food safety regulators to benefit from each other's valuable information and expertise. They also demonstrate the spirit of cooperation between international organizations, such as FAO and WHO in particular, and countries around the world in improving food safety management, including response to international food safety emergencies.
The theme of this Second Forum is "Building Effective Food Safety Systems" and it aims to provide the global community of food safety regulators with a venue to discuss ideas, exchange information, and share experiences.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Food safety is an issue of vital importance that affects all of the world's people, especially in today's increasingly complex and competitive global food markets. According to its motto as "Kitchen of the world," Thailand aims to provide safe food for its own people, while also providing safe food for the growing international marketplace. Thailand's initiative to host this important food safety meeting is reflective of the governments' emphasis on Food Safety, as 2004 has been named "Food Safety Year" in Thailand.
In Thailand, like many countries, the goal of improving food safety is hampered by an outdated food safety system including: fragmented legislation; multiple jurisdictions; inconsistent enforcement; shortcomings in food surveillance and monitoring; insufficient laboratories and technologies, and the lack of trained human resources. In 2002, the Thai government addressed these challenges through the reorganization of the food control system and has achieved great progress in addressing these issues. As the aim of this Forum is for regulators to work together and to share information and expertise, I would like to begin this Forum by sharing some key strategies to enhance food safety for your consideration and deliberation:
1. Utilize a preventive approach to food safety throughout the food chain, from "farm to table";
2. Build safety and quality into the food production process through the application of Good Agricultural Practices, Good Manufacturing Practices, good hygienic practices, and the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point System (HACCP);
3. Base the food control risk management process upon science and transparency, especially through efforts made to separate the food safety enforcement agencies from the standards and regulation development agencies;
4. Promote a safety assurance scheme to facilitate mutual recognition agreements with trading parties;
5. Increase national voluntary standards and codes of practices to facilitate the certification system;
6. Increase the efficiency of risk-based inspection services;
7. Improve laboratory performance and coverage of the hazards involved in food safety;
8. Improve communication and involvement of stakeholders in all aspects of food safety at all stages of the decision-making process.
9. Initiate and implement traceability measures.
To implement these strategies, a strong political commitment is needed to provide a clear national policy, as well as financial resources, to empower these key strategies and ensure success in improving food safety. Both developing and developed countries need to continue to strengthen their food safety control system, including infrastructures, personnel and other resources, to ensure food safety and quality as well.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Those involved with food safety regulations from around the world have gathered here today to work together to improve food safety, thus promoting good health for consumers, as well increasing income levels through increased food trade. Many interesting and timely papers will be presented on the sub-themes of the Forum, namely "Strengthening official food safety control services" and "Epidemio-surveillance of food-borne diseases and food safety rapid alert systems". These are both essential elements of "Building Effective Food Safety Systems".
I am confident that the sharing of information and expertise which will occur here this week and the subsequent collaboration at the international, regional, and national levels are essential to improve food safety around the world.
Finally, permit me once again to congratulate the FAO and WHO on this enormous contribution towards building effective food safety systems which are important to the whole world.
I understand that you have a busy schedule ahead, and I wish you very fruitful discussions. Please also have a pleasant stay and enjoy fascinating Thailand!
On this note, I now have the pleasure to officially declare open - "The Second Global Forum of Food Safety Regulators!"