Page tools
FAO RLC EVENT WhatsApp Image 2022-06-01 at 3.06.37 PM (cropped).png

Great efforts are needed to guarantee the safety of the food on our table


On Tuesday, 1 June a multiagency-webinar took place for World Food Safety Day in the Latin America and Caribbean region. The trilingual event explored ways of ensuring “safer food, better health” for all, and looked at some of the food safety challenges across theregion.

The webinar was organized and hosted by the International Regional Organization for Agricultural Health (OIRSA) and co-organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) and the Phytosanitary and Zoosanitary Regulation and Control Agency of Ecuador (AGROCALIDAD).

All co-organizers welcomed World Food Safety Day for the Latin America and Caribbean region with opening remarks from Patricio Almeida, Executive Director of AGROCALIDAD. Rommel Betancourt, Regional Coordinator of the Codex Coordinating Committee for Latin America and the Caribbean (CCLAC), followed him, stating that “consumers must be able to eat food that is nutritious and that doesn’t cause foodborne diseases”. This message was then expanded by PAHO’s Food Safety Specialist, Margarita Corrales, who made the comment that “consumers are demanding transparency about how food is produced”.

Both Marisa Caipo, FAO Food Safety Officer with the Regional Office of Latin America and the Caribbean and the IICA’s Specialist in Agricultural Health and Food Safety, Ana Marisa Cordero, made reference to the collective responsibilities involved in food safety, and Cordero also pointed to new technologies “for efficient solutions for food safety and better health”. Caipo said we must be clear that if it is not safe, it is not food. OIRSA’s Executive Director, Efrain Medina, echoed these sentiments, underlining how food safety measures must be implemented all along the food chain, before handing over to two speakers representing high authorities, who delivered messages regarding the importance of food safety. 

Daniel Alberto Rubio from Colombia’s Ministry of Health and Social Protection went into some detail about the recently adopted WHO strategy on food safety, and reminded listeners that “great efforts are needed to guarantee the safety of the food on our table”. His talk was followed by an explanation from UNEP’s Director, Latin America and the Caribbean, Jacqueline Alvarez, about the need for food systems transformation. Our current food systems, she said, have an impact on climate change by emitting around 30 percent of greenhouse gases, they are responsible for biodiversity and habitat loss and cause degradation and soil and water contamination. “We need an efficient agricultural response”, she said, proposing that the One Health approach is the appropriate response needed for improved nutrition and for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). She also offered some statistics regarding food waste which she said is an issue of ethics and human rights.

The remaining four speakers looked at more specific food safety-related subjects, including the early alert system managed by the International Food Safety Authorities Network (INFOSAN), the complex nature of Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs) in various jurisdictions, food fraud, and food safety challenges for the Caribbean.

INFOSAN’s Francisco Guajardo explained the makeup of INFOSAN’s membership and functional structure, and how the alerts system works. He drew on an example of contamination of baby formula in the United States of America. Alinne Oliveira, Deputy Director, Global Access, Bryant Christie Inc., BC Global, a private sector company that advises companies on compliance with food standards globally, explained different approaches to what she described as the “hot topic” of MRLs.

Marcos Sanchez-Plata, Associate Professor at Texas Tech University, described the differences between the need to protect from deliberate food contamination with the intent to cause harm (food defense) and food contamination motivated by economic factors (food fraud). He then spelled out the three-step process of evaluating vulnerabilities to such contamination. Finally, Suzan McLennon Miguel, Food Safety Specialist from the Caribbean Agricultural Health and Food Safety Agency (CAHFSA) described how Caribbean nations have much in common in terms of what they grow, how they grow it and how they trade that food amongst themselves. She outlined the food safety challenges involved in Caribbean countries coping with import dependency and the variety of culinary expectations coming from the 32 million visitors to the sub-region each year. CAHFSA, she said, is part of the solution to these challenges.

Watch the webinar

in English | in Portuguese | in Spanish