Food Safety Begins With The Producer

Wednesday, February 20th, 2019 | 1006 Views

In an interactive panel, The World Bank and Food Industry Asia highlight the need for transparent and coherent regulations in the ASEAN region to uphold food safety standards in developing countries.

Developing countries are a melting pot for foodborne illnesses. The World Bank indicates that while low and middle-income countries in South Asia, Southeast Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa account for 41 percent of the global population, they are afflicted with 53 percent of all foodborne illnesses and 75 percent of related deaths.

Decades of inadequate policy monitoring by governments in developing countries has led to lax safety cultures in food manufacturing plants. While there are many reasons associated for lapses in food safety, a lack of awareness and poor resources are often causes of food safety hazards going “unnoticed”, leading to crises.

While it is widely understood that government policies can directly influence the processing and packaging of food products, many consumers in developing countries have little faith in governmental regulations. Dr Shashi Sareen, International Food Safety Advisor and Consultant, uses her study on Vietnam as example: “Even with a Vietnam Good Agricultural Practices Code (VietGAP) certification—which ensures best practices are upheld in agricultural production—survey data indicates that less than 10 percent of Vietnamese consumers find the certification credible and would purchase such accredited products.”

A Paradigm Shift Is Needed

Professor Joergen Schlundt, Adjunct Professor from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, posits that to combat such mistrust of regulations, ASEAN needs to come together to streamline food safety regulations. He states: “There is a huge opportunity within ASEAN to set a standard for food safety, especially sharing best practices from Singapore to other countries in the region. If we could have standardised systems with the support of local governments, there is a high chance of reducing the instances of foodborne illnesses and related insecurities.”

From the private sector, Bruce Blakeman, Vice President of Corporate Affairs from Cargill, also takes the same stance on education. He states: “Helping to create a responsible food safety culture is one of the primary responsibilities of a company like Cargill. For example, when we developed a frozen spinach supply chain from Myanmar to Japan, we helped the Myanmar manufacturers understand what they needed to do in order to meet Japanese safety standards. This created a culture catered toward the safe production of spinach.”

Considering that adverse effects of unsafe food, it is important for food producers and manufacturers to take ownership and responsibility of their own food safety cultures. Implementing such a culture should not be reactive—i.e. put in place only when crises occur—but should be a sustainable process that ensures safety risks are managed and employees are empowered to make safe decisions in the plant.

Interested in learning more about The World Bank’s Safe Food Imperative? The full report is available for download here.