FAO Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia

How can governments better prepare for and respond to a food safety crisis?

A three-day regional workshop entitled “Preparing for emergencies: Food safety crisis management, response, and communication” starts today to support governments in their efforts to be ready for and handle future issues.

The workshop, convened in a virtual format due to COVID-19 restrictions, provides an interactive platform to discuss issues related to food safety in depth through a series of technical expert presentations and working group discussions. It also highlights the importance of establishing appropriate food safety risk communication mechanisms, even in the absence of a food safety crisis, as food safety authorities need to provide constant and effective communication to food businesses, consumers, and the media, among others.

Preparedness for emergencies, ranging from minor incidents to major crises, constitutes a crucial part of food control systems. Timely detection and rapid, effective response to food safety incidents and threats can help minimize their potential to harm human health. In recognition of the importance of food safety emergency preparedness, countries requested FAO’s support to develop technical capacities for crisis management and to ensure that appropriate procedures are in place.

The workshop has been organized within the scope of the project “Improving national food safety systems and regional cooperation” funded by the Government of Turkey through the FAO–Turkey Partnership Programme on Food and Agriculture and is the first regional event. This helps Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, the Republic of Moldova, Tajikistan, and Turkey strengthen official food safety controls and improve risk-based communication, within the context of national capacity-building activities conducted over the last six months.

Workshop participants will have an opportunity to discuss national gaps and priority areas for improvement, with a focus on key ways to enhance interactions between official agencies and food businesses in the context of food safety emergencies. In addition, the workshop will provide participants with a platform to exchange knowledge and establish networks for further cooperation at the regional level.

In his opening speech, Viorel Gutu, FAO Subregional Coordinator for Central Asia and FAO Representative in Turkey, underlined the importance of efficient planning and procedures to ensure the healthy operation of food control systems, protect public health, promote fair practices in food trade, and facilitate access to different markets. Gutu also noted that food control systems should be in a state of constant evolution in order to prevent and respond rapidly to emergencies.

Harun Seçkin, Director-General of Food and Control at Turkey’s Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, then shared information with the participants about the Ministry’s efforts to improve food safety management in Turkey and the sub-region.

The project will continue to support beneficiary countries in the development and implementation of emergency response procedures, clarification of roles and responsibilities, and improvement of risk communication among different actors of the food system.

24 November 2021, Ankara, Turkey