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Raising farmer's awareness on food safety concerns
LOS BAÑOS, PHILIPPINES - Despite its focus on food security, the Philippines is placing more and more attention to food quality and safety. In recent years, agricultural policies have given priority not only to increasing production but also to ensuring safe agricultural and food products.
Safe and quality foods have strong potential for addressing not only health concerns but also poverty in the Philippines. Local experience reveals a strong connection between health and poverty. Poor health conditions decrease human potential for productivity by limiting one’s socio-economic activities.
Food safety and quality is also important for the Philippines if it is to pursue its interest in international trade. Major importing countries like the US, Japan, and the European Union (EU) have imposed strict sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) standards for exporting countries.
For the Philippines, this would entail establishing a system for food traceability, and certification system on good agricultural practices (GAP) covering crop protection, product handling, and chemical use.
The Philippines’s ability to protect its position in the world market for certain agricultural and food products would depend on its ability to cope up with such standards.
Currently, the country’s food safety, quality and traceability systems are still underdeveloped. Experience in many developing countries point to several reasons for unsatisfactory food safety system (FAO n.d.)
- Complexity of food system / supply chain;
- Lack of coordination among various government agencies and the production sectors;
- Low application adoption of modern and science-based technologies and practices;
- Ineffective institutional infrastructure;
- Lack of physical infrastructure and suitable facilities; and
- Inadequate human resource capability for food safety.
The World Bank (2000) suggests the following measures as possible components of food safety projects in developing countries:
- Systems for product traceability
- Establishing disease-free zones
- Developing laboratory capacity for residue testing, microbial counts, etc.
- Chain management (‘from farm to the table’) regulation and training
- Strengthening capacity for food inspection and certification
- HACCP training
- Market information about import standards in export markets
- Training in appropriate use of pesticides and veterinary pharmaceuticals
Domestic market focused
- Basic investments in water and sanitation
- Hygiene training for street food vendors
- Hygiene practices for wholesale marketplaces
- Provision of disease-free seeds and seedlings
- Legal framework for seed inspection and certification, plant and animal quarantine infrastructure
- Eradication of specific plant pests
- Vaccination programs against livestock diseases
Improving the food safety and control system is an enormous task that requires a holistic approach. Interventions that would establish or strengthen the regulatory system, build the capacity of the involved institutions, build the capacity of the human resource, and encourage government and industry participation are necessary. (Don Joseph M. Medrana, Philippines: PCARRD-DOST)
Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). n.d. The importance of food quality and safety for developing countries. A paper posted at (http://www.fao.org/trade/docs/LDC-foodqual_en.htm). Accessed: February 23, 2007.
The World Bank. 2000. Food safety and developing countries. Agriculture Technology Notes No. 26.