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Following worldwide food safety emergencies, FAO/WHO Global Forum to discuss best practices in food safety

WHAT: The FAO/WHO Global Forum is the first major meeting of Food Safety Regulators from around the globe focusing on improved methods to ensure the safety of all food throughout the food chain.

A wide variety of topics will be discussed, for instance:handling emergencies, such as "Mad Cow disease" and dioxin-contaminated feed,evaluating the potential risks and benefits of modern technology, such as genetic engineering and irradiation of foods, meeting the food safety needs of developing countries and assisting them, tackling currently identified microbiological and chemical hazards, preparing for new risks, such as drug-resistant Salmonella, and designing high performance national food safety strategies. WHY: Foodborne diseases are on the rise due to a number of factors related to production trends and eating habits, greater urbanization, intensive animal farming, increased trade and different consumer preferences.

It is estimated that every year more than 2 million people die from disease caused by food and water contamination, whereas at least one-third of the population of any nation experiences foodborne disease every year. Food safety problems also cost billions of dollars. Countries, therefore, are searching for ways to improve their systems to control the safety and quality of the national food supply.

These systems vary widely in both their sophistication and in their ability to react to food safety threats. Because some of these threats are transboundary in nature, it is essential that nations work together more closely to develop high performance and harmonized food safety systems that will result in uniform emergency responses to such threats.

The FAO/WHO Global Forum of Food Safety Regulators will provide an opportunity for regulators from every region of the world to meet and exchange experiences on food safety issues in an effort to develop a more cohesive and effective response to food safety threats.

WHEN: 9:00, Monday, 28 January to 18:00, Wednesday, 30 January 2002

WHERE: Palais des Congrès; avenue de France; Marrakech, Morocco

WHO: Senior officials from several countries will present 12 key papers (available at http://www.foodsafetyforum.org/global/) describing actual foodborne disease incidents, solutions implemented, recommendations and needs. Other participating countries will present at least 50 "country papers" describing national experiences in food safety.

In total, some 300 Food Safety Regulators and experts from about 120 nations representing every region of the world will attend. WHO and FAO have jointly convened the Global Forum at the request of their member states and the G-8 countries.

LANGUAGES: The Forum proceedings will be simultaneously interpreted in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish.

PRESS ACCREDITATION AND FACILITIES: Press accreditation will be provided at the Palais des Congrès starting at 8:00 on Monday, 28 January. Working space for the media is available, including a limited number of computers with internet access as well as several internet connection points for personal laptop computers. Telephone facilities are available and telephone cards can be purchased on site. There are several telephone booths for radio correspondents.

HOTEL RESERVATIONS: Hotel reservations can be made through Intour by clicking on the bed at the upper-right-hand corner of the Global Forum's home page, completing the hotel reservation form and sending it to the following: Fax: +212 44 43 46 03; E-mails: intour@iam.net.ma or Intour.rak@cybernet.net.ma

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For more information contact:

Ms Melinda Henry
Telephone: +41 (22) 791 2535
Mobile phone: +41 (79) 477 1738
Fax: +41 (22) 791 4858
E-mail: henrym@who.int