Global forum of food safety regulators, Marrakesh, Morocco, 28-30 January 2002
A FORUM DEDICATED TO SHARING EXPERIENCES IN MANAGEMENT OF FOOD SAFETY
This Global Forum was held to exchange experiences, both good and bad, on the efforts of governments to assure the safety of their food supplies. The Forum was characterized by very active participation of all delegates. The meetings were held in an atmosphere of conviviality and countries were willing to learn from each other and openly discuss all experiences presented.
All of the Forum discussions were based on the principle that regulations must be science-based and built on risk assessment as appropriate to circumstance. These discussions demonstrated a global recognition that actions need to be taken throughout the food production chain from farm and fishing boat to the consumer.
The Forum held the view that all stakeholders should be involved in the regulatory process and that its implementation should be based on the risk analysis paradigm.
In the process of sharing experiences, countries learned that it is possible to use food safety regulations to reduce foodborne illness and improve the overall health of their populations. This also helps countries develop their trade opportunities and strengthen consumers confidence in the safety of their food supply.
Nevertheless, many areas require further discussion in appropriate fora to clarify the application of the risk analysis paradigm in all situations. There is also a need for further dialogue and interaction between countries to deal with food safety issues where there is uncertainty or lack of agreement on the science.
It was recognized that further application of the risk analysis approach in developing countries requires additional investigation and more transfer of knowledge and information, as well as an efficient sharing of relevant data between countries. The pivotal role of international organizations in mediating this development was stressed.
Many of the discussions were based on practical examples, included in the more than 90 country papers submitted to the Forum. Such examples include the resolution of the dioxin crisis and efforts underway in several countries to reduce microbiological risks, such as Salmonella and Campylobacter, in some cases quite significantly.
The Forum also shared examples on how food safety systems are being adapted to ensure a more sustainable consultation and involvement of consumers and other stakeholders in the regulatory process.
Because food safety should no longer be the luxury of the rich, actions need to be taken urgently to develop the capacity in particular in developing countries to assure the safety of the food supply to their populations. Building such capacities will also assist in building export capacity, improving public health and reducing poverty. It improves the confidence of all consumers in the foods that they buy in the global marketplace.
The Forum had a vibrant exchange of views on the assistance needs of developing countries and how capacity building efforts can be more effectively utilized. There was recognition that an assessment of needs and priorities of developing countries concerning technical assistance, is necessary. Many countries reported ongoing efforts of capacity building and called for more information, communication and consultation to enhance the effectiveness of these activities.
It was recognized that communication and consumer involvement both need further development in many national food safety systems. Improved emergency response systems, especially at the international level, will assist in improving communication and understanding of food safety emergencies and assist in better and more targeted response at the national level.
With the risk analysis approach, improved communication, and increased capacity building efforts there is a bright prospect of improvements in food safety both nationally and internationally.