Discussing food safety in Asean with the Mekong Institute

12 Aug 2019  63 | Business & Trade Fairs

Mekong Institute is currently running a food safety project in its second phase called Prosafe (Promoting Safe Food for Everyone). It is a 5-year initiative providing training and support services to the governments of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam, particularly for agricultural and food safety officials, as well as various private sector actors.

It aims to develop their food safety knowledge and expertise and assist them in preparing and implementing appropriate food safety regulations and standards for select value chains and market outlets both inside and outside the country.

Through the programme, we provide a series of food safety trainings to government agencies, academic and research institutions, and agro-processing SMEs. We address food safety issues along the value chain on a farm-to-table approach.

We also provide post-training outreach support and localised training, as well as develop and improve food safety guidelines and regulations, develop food safety promotional materials, and support SMEs in implementing food safety and quality management systems based on national and international standards.

KT: The programme is currently in its third year. What progress have you seen when it comes to food safety awareness in these countries?

Mr Leelawath: Each country has increased its efforts to promote food safety. For example, Cambodia is now drafting a national food safety policy and updating its food safety law.

Moreover, each country is actively participating in regional and international food safety networks, including Asean, the International Food Safety Authorities Network (Infosan), and the Codex Alimentarius, which was established by the World Health Organisation and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation.

Food safety awareness has been promoted via various media platforms and our consumers are now aware of food safety issues and they are putting pressure on producers to follow national and internal food standards.

KT: Cambodia has the Cam-GAP (Good Agricultural Practices) standards, which were issued in 2010. However, the application of these standards among industry players is still limited. What can be done to encourage farmers to seek out GAP certifications and increase awareness of these standards?

Mr Leelawath: The Cam-GAP standards for fresh fruits and vegetables, which is aligned with the Asean-GAP, are ready for farm certification. The key challenge, however, is that farmers have no incentives to adopt these standards since there is no premium price for GAP produce. Most importantly, farmers have limited capacity to follow a long list of GAP-related requirements.

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