FAO highlights the importance of food safety in trade

FAO highlights the importance of food safety in trade

Four ways to improve food safety and boost trade are put forward in the policy brief.

The document discusses the links between trade and food safety and highlights the role of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

Markus Lieb, Vittorio Fattori and Cosimo Avicani said that while trade can provide consumers with sufficient, diverse and nutritious food, it can also contribute to increasing the availability of unsafe food.

The brief notes that to facilitate trade and ensure safe food for all at all times, countries must take further steps to improve food safety at national, regional and international levels and ensure proper application and harmonization of food standards.

Investment in food safety is essential, and capacity-building support from FAO and other organizations is key, the authors said.

Food safety requirements can raise production costs, affect product reputation, and limit access to some markets. According to the brief, such measures and controls need to protect public health while avoiding unnecessary costs and trade barriers.

Four areas of focus

The document mentions Codex standards and the World Trade Organization’s Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Agreement. It was produced before WTO No. 13y Ministerial Conference in Abu Dhabi from February 26 to 29.

Efforts to improve food safety and boost trade should focus on four areas, Leeb, Fattori and Avisani said. The first was a strong and effective national food control system.

“While the food industry has a responsibility to produce safe products, governments have a responsibility to provide a well-functioning national food control system,” the brief said.

The second factor is to provide sound scientific advice and evidence, given the pace of scientific innovation, new food technologies, and changing trade dynamics.

“To proactively address changes in our evolving agri-food systems, scientific advice on food safety must keep pace with these emerging issues and provide a sound basis for regulatory frameworks and decision-making processes. Strengthening the harmonization of standards to reduce compliance costs is also important.

The other two areas are intergovernmental and multi-stakeholder engagement at the national and international levels and cooperation between public and private stakeholders.

Focus on German finance and climate change

Meanwhile, the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) intends to donate €1.95 million ($2.12 million) to the Standards and Trade Development Fund (STDF).

These funds will strengthen the ability of smallholder farmers and producers to access global and regional markets for food and agricultural products through sanitary and phytosanitary projects. The projects will pilot approaches to facilitate safe trade in a way that helps reduce the risks of pests and diseases, contribute to safe food systems and mitigate the impact of climate change on food security.

“By aligning with international food safety standards, developing countries will be better positioned to access global markets, promote economic growth, sustainability and job creation. This contribution will fund targeted initiatives, training programs and building efforts,” said Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Director-General of the World Trade Organization. Capabilities tailored to the unique challenges these countries face in meeting international sanitary and phytosanitary standards.

Developing and least developed countries can apply for SPS Project Grants and Project Preparation Grants from the Science and Technology Fund. The next deadline for submitting funding proposals is March 1. The Fund was established by the Food and Agriculture Organization, the World Health Organization, the World Bank Group, the World Organization for Animal Health (WOAH), and the World Trade Organization.

In November 2023, the Science and Technology Fund published a briefing note on SPS and climate change.

Challenges include sea level rise, ocean acidification, and changes in temperature, humidity and precipitation, which affect the continued presence of foodborne bacteria, viruses and parasites, according to the document.

“Extreme weather events, droughts and rising temperatures are affecting the distribution patterns of pests and diseases and are contributing to new food safety risks. Impacts on food safety and animal and plant health are already noticeable and will be further exacerbated. Changing climate factors are also affecting the spread of chemical risks such as harmful algal toxins.” Mycotoxins and methylmercury in food.

The briefing note also focuses on what needs to be done to address the challenges.

“Climate change discussions must prioritize effective food safety, animal and plant health systems, leading to greater political attention and subsequent much-needed funding. Improving monitoring and surveillance capacities will be key to detecting, managing and controlling the increasing and new risks posed by climate change, To guide risk assessments and reduce uncertainty.

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