Food Safety Specialists Call for Stronger Capacity Building and Communication on Risk-based Food Control in Southeast Asia
Valuable recommendations on capacity building and developing appropriate risk communication systems were put forward by a seminar-workshop on Risk-based Food Control Programs in Southeast Asia held on 17-19 May 2011 at SEARCA. Participants included 15 senior and middle-level food safety specialists from government, industry, and academe in Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, the Philippines, and Vietnam. The meeting was a joint activity between SEARCA and the Food Security Center, a global project initiated by the University of Hohenheim, Germany.
The seminar-workshop viewed food safety in the context of the1996 Rome Declaration on Food Security and emphasized both public health and trade. It enhanced the participants’ understanding of the framework of risk analysis, and its components of risk assessment, risk management, and risk communication, providing the opportunity to discuss the role of sound science in food safety at length. The workshop gave the participants updates on the status of food control systems in the region, serving as a platform for the exchange of information and experiences on the design and implementation of risk-based farm-to-fork food safety systems.
Overall, the seminar-workshop provided the participants guidance in advancing risk-based food control systems in their respective countries, giving appropriate consideration of the specific role of government, industry (including primary producers), consumers and academe. Harmonization of food control systems in ASEAN would be possible only if the individual countries’ systems are science-based.
Specifically, the seminar-workshop raised the following recommendations:
Strengthen the role of academe in science-based food safety systems through appropriately designed curricular, research and extension programs;
Establish an ASEAN Risk-based Clearinghouse to help accelerate the development of the established ASEAN Rapid Alert System on Food and Feeds (ARASFF) and to manage the dissemination of food safety-related information to all stakeholders, particularly to consumers.
For SEARCA in particular, to consider the development and implementation of a special one-month diploma course for SEAMEO member countries to update university-based food technologists on food safety risk analysis;
Offer focused workshops on microbial and chemical risk assessment, risk communication guidelines, laboratory methods for microbial and chemical contaminants analysis, and tools for economic analysis of risk-based food safety systems;
Facilitate an experts’ exchange among ASEAN countries networking for effective risk communication in the region;
Survey regional and international food safety networks found online and explore mechanisms to ensure efficient utilization and participation in these networks, one of which is ASEAN-based; and
Participants also proposed action plans to address the gaps in food safety systems. Dr. Ma. Concepcion C. Lizada, Professor Emeritus in Food Science at the University of the Philippines and former delegate and executive member of the Codex Alimentarius Meetings, led the eminent resource persons of the seminar-workshop.
In November 2010, SEARCA and FSC also jointly conducted a Roundtable on Achieving Greater Food Security in Asia through Improved Information Network to identify key recommendations and research that will further strengthen the region’s food security information system.
The FSC is part of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) program “Exceed” and is supported by both DAAD and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). Started in July 2009 with SEARCA serving as its Southeast Asian coordinator, the FSC aims to make effective and innovative scientific contributions in research, teaching, and policy advice to eradicate hunger and achieve food security in collaboration with higher education institutions in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, as well as national and international development and research organizations. Its activities deal with issues on sustainable food availability, food access, food use, and food utilization. (Jenny Lynn B. Carigma)