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Ensuring Food Safety in the Philippine Coconut Industry


By Luz Brenda P. Balibrea

Coconut oil, desiccated coconut, coconut water, coconut milk, coconut sap sugar and refined glycerin are among the coconut food products that are continuously making a big wave in the international market. As demand for natural food products is expanding, ensuring food safety is very important. Thus, the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA), being the primary agency mandated to promote the integrated development and growth of the coconut and other palm oil industry in the Philippines in all its aspects, has been conducting orientation seminars and trainings on food safety such as Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), Sanitation Standard Operating Procedures (SSOP) and Establishment of Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) Plan.

With the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Measures, WTO member countries are now strictly imposing non-tariff measures (NTMs) and other trade barriers to ensure food safety. Border rejections were experienced by exporters from different countries as a result of such impositions.

GMP is a system to ensure that products meet food safety, quality and legal requirements while HACCP is a systematic program to identify control points from hazards of pathogens and other contaminants. Critical points for control of the hazard from pathogens and other contaminants that food companies need to consider include: employee training and supervision, product design and formulation, supply chain of raw materials, manufacturing premises, equipment and processes, cleaning, and packaging and labelling.

With the above premises, the PCA deemed it necessary to conduct awareness seminars and formal trainings to PCA concerned personnel to have a common and uniform understanding on what practices and hazards that must be prevented, eliminated or minimized in the coconut processing plants particularly those registered with PCA. This is for the PCA front liners to be able to provide the necessary technical assistance to start-up enterprises and monitor the compliance to standards of the existing processing plants.

Series of seminars on food safety were conducted in different occasions while a formal 5-day training course on GMP, SSOP and HACCP Plan Preparation was conducted to PCA Coconut Production & Regulation Officers & technical personnel in the last quarter of 2019. In addition to the rigid lectures and workshops, actual processing plant inspection was done to apply the learnings of the participants in the 4-day lectures. Forty-five (45) trainees successfully completed the training course.

The expected outcomes of the training are the increased level of understanding on food safety and enhanced capacity of the PCA regulatory & technical field personnel to implement food safety standards and traceability. With these, it is also expected that the level of awareness of the coconut farmers, processors and the consumers on food safety will increase and compliance to standards will be strictly observed.