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Now is the time for action! The first ever Codex Trust Fund group project closes with ambitious plans for future collaboration


On 15 and 16 August, delegates from Bhutan, India and Nepal (BIN) met in the Bhutanese capital Thimphu for the ‘Terminal Meeting’ of the first ever Codex Trust Fund (CTF) group project. Attendees at the meeting lauded the project as a great success and were clear that rather than marking the end of the BIN collaboration, this was a pivotal moment where the three countries could look forward to consolidating what they have learned and building on what they have gained from their 3-year joint undertaking.

Dr Gyanendra Gongal, Senior Public Health Officer of the WHO Regional Office for Southeast Asia, and Mr Michael Hinsch, administrator of the Codex Trust Fund, which is hosted by WHO, also attended the meeting which aimed to review the work done and the objectives achieved, and to plot a way forward for the relationships developed under the project. Referring to a key aim of CTF group projects, Dr Gongal said: “It is important that we build trust, confidence and understanding between countries.” By the end of the meeting, it was clear that Bhutan, India and Nepal had established new and enduring relationships through the project.

Achievements under the project were significant. All countries were able to report that their national Codex structures are now more robust than before the project started. Key project activities included a visit to Bhutan by an Indian delegation that provided training on improved import/export inspection and certification systems, which helped to improve Codex Bhutan’s understanding of and participation in the Codex Committee on Food Inspection and Certification Systems (CCFICS). Delegates from Bhutan and Nepal visited India for training on effective management of Codex work, which included insights into producing an effective and workable procedural manual. The Bhutan Codex Committee successfully updated its procedural manual as a result. Collaboration between the three countries have also developed in areas outside of the project scope. Nepal and India now have a mutual laboratory recognition agreement and an agreement is also in place to increase Bhutan’s food safety laboratory capacity. Bhutan and India are currently working on a Memorandum of Understanding on trade in food between the two countries.

Hailing the successes of the project Dr Gongal said: “this was a low-cost, high-impact project” and it became clear that these impacts will only grow. As delegates at the meeting laid their plans for the future, the realisation of the possibilities of collective work on Codex standards sparked ambitious ideas to develop a new work proposal for a standard on millets and a standard for large cardamom. “Now is the time for action!” declared Mr Sunil Bakshi, Head of Regulation at the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI). Ms Dechen Choki, Deputy Chief, Regulatory and Quarantine Officer of the Certification Service at the Bhutan Food and Drug Authority (BFDA), echoed the sentiment by declaring “this is not the end; it is the beginning of our intercountry collaboration.”

“I’m looking forward to where this is going!” said Mr Hinsch, stressing that countries will need to carry out a post-implementation evaluation by repeating the Diagnostic Tool exercise which is part of the CTF application process.

At the concluding celebration dinner,  Bhutan’s Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock, Dasho Thinley Namgyel and Acting Secretary of the Ministry of Health, Dasho Pemba Wangchuk congratulated the delegates and WHO representatives for the positive work done under the CTF project. “I’m glad our three countries are coming together!” said Dasho Pemba Wangchuk, “it’s all about friendship; it’s all collaboration.”


Photo © WHO/Sue Price
Back row left to right:
Mr Mohan Krishna Maharajan, Senior Food Research Officer Department of Food Technology and Quality Control (DFTQC), Nepal; Mr Sunil Bakshi, Head, Regulation, FSSAI India; Dr Gyanendra Gongal, Senior Public Health Officer, WHO Regional Office for Southeast Asia ; Mr Michael Hinsch, administrator of the Codex Trust Fund; Mr Prakash Tamang, Food Safety Officer, BFDA; Mr Kinley Rabgay, Senior Regulatory and Quarantine Officer, BFDA; Mr Jambay Dorji, Officiating Chief, Food Quality and Safety Division (FQSD) BFDA.
Front row left to right:
Ms Jamyang Yangchen, Senior Regulatory and Quarantine Officer, BFDA; Ms Thinley Zangmo, Assistant Regulatory and Quarantine Officer, BFDA; Ms Dechen Choki, Deputy Chief, Regulatory and Quarantine Officer, Certification Service, BFDA; Dr Matina Joshi Vaidya, Director-General DFTQC Nepal; Ms Sakshee Pipliyal, Assistant Director, Technical, FSSAI India.