Key speakers highlight food safety issues at the 3rd Oman International Food Safety Conference 2012
- Oman: Wednesday, November 07 - 2012 at 11:36
- PRESS RELEASE
The 3rd Oman Food Safety Conference 2012 taking place from 6th -8th November, 2012 was inaugurated by H.E. Dr. Ishaq Ahmed Mohammed Al-Ruqaishi, Undersecretary, Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries at the Grand Hyatt on 6th November, 2012.
She stressed upon the importance of the Codex in the international food trade since Codex standards she said set the benchmark standards according to the World Trade Organisation's Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (WTO SPS Agreement).
Dr. Pernet observed that most countries in the region have yet to harmonise their national food safety standards with international standards and that countries from the Near East Region should participate actively in the CAC and strive to harmonise their national food safety and quality regulations with Codex Standards.
From a global perspective, Dr. Hugh Quigley, Former Deputy Director, Food & Veterinary office, European Union gave attendees a bird's eye view of the European Union's Food Safety System.
Dr. Quigley maintained that law enforcement is linked with political movement of the times stating that the current decade was one of economic challenges which puts more pressure on resources used in the regulation process.
He estimated that around 350,000 Europeans were affected annually by food borne illness with food risks including biological, chemical, plant and animal diseases.
He presented the European Enforcement Model which detailed the role of feed and food operators, businesses, national authorities and the European Commission in ensuring food safety.
He went on to explain the European food chain and the EU rules for imports and concluded by highlighting upcoming future issues related to food safety including health crises, food scarcity, climate change, increasing competition, self regulation and industrialisation of food production and assuring the dedication of the EU to furthering and adhering to the cause of food safety.
Dr. Mustafa A. Gassem, Executive Director of the Laboratory General Authority, Saudi Food & Drug Authority (Food Sector) KSA enlightened attendees on the requirements and the challenges that come with putting a food safety system into practice through a case study of the Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA).
Following him Prof. Raymond O' Rourke, Food & Consumer Lawyer, Ireland pointed out how Improved regulation and role of the public sector would ensure food safety for consumers. He focussed specifically on the need for a National Food Law.
He said that just following the Codex Alimentarius food standards was not sufficient. There lay a need for risk assessments to decide on the 'proportionality' of measures.
He stated that in his observations when the Government in this region was in charge of official food control system, the Ministry of Agriculture oversaw the role of Veterinary Surgeons who carried out food Inspections while the Ministry of Health, the Municipalities, the Ministry of Environment, the Ministry of Welfare and the Ministry of Commerce oversaw operations related to food hygiene, food labelling and fraud. Setting up a National Food Agency he insisted would assist co-ordination in official food control system across the entire food chain.
A panel discussion titled Advancing Food Safety in Oman through Public - Private Collaboration moderated by Mr. Abdul Rashid, Director and General Manager , Chartered Institute of Environmental Health - Middle East saw key issues being discussed by the above speakers and Mr. Ahmed Noori Al-Raisi, Deputy Director of Public Health Researches, Muscat Municipality, such as the role of governments in promoting food safety, the ways in which public confidence in food safety could be boosted, the feasibility of setting up a dedicated food safety authority in Oman and challenges facing the sector in terms of rules and standards.
Following the panel discussion, Mr. William Wood, Director, SFBB Systems Ltd and Development Consultant to the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health on the CIEH Food Safety System for Food Businesses in Oman enlightened attendees on the driving factors for HACCP systems for food businesses in Oman. He believes that there are three factors which drive businesses to adopt HACCP/FSM Systems namely Legislation, Customers and Internal Business Issues. Mr. Wood said that legislation is enforced by fixed frequency unannounced inspections with powers of entry, fines, prosecutions and closure for violations / imminent risk.
Customers play a key role in the adoption process too as they now want to make informed decisions about the food they consume based on an increasing awareness of the importance of food safety and a further increased willingness to complain. Internal Business issues like staffing difficulties, recruitment, high turnover, language barriers, failure to identify and put in place control limits etc have also driven businesses to adopt HACCP/FSM Systems. Mr. Wood made suggestions as to how the enforcement process could be sped up namely the setting up of a food hygiene rating scheme, a move towards A PIC responsibility and the endorsement of a simple HACCP / FSMS tool kits for businesses by authorities.
The final speaker Mr. Richard Sprenger, Chairman, Highfield Co. UK shared some interesting Facts and Fantasies of Food Safety with attendees by posing certain statements as coming under the category of good science or bad advice. For e.g. the statement Color is a better indicator than a clean, accurate thermometer for confirming that food is cooked safely would come under the bad advice category (since thermometers are the better judges) while the statement Raw egg shells should not be used to make mousse or mayonnaise would come under the category of good science (pasteurised eggs should be used). The first day of the Conference ended with the floor being thrown open for questions.
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