Food safety requires stronger cooperation, experts say

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Experts at yesterday’s forum stressed the need for more cooperation in food safety among all actors in the industry. Supplied

Government officials and industry experts yesterday highlighted the need for a stronger collaboration among authorities, the private and non-profit sectors and consumers to enhance food safety in the Kingdom.

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The calls for greater cooperation among all actors in the food industry were made during the Food Safety Forum held in Phnom Penh yesterday, the first meeting of its kind organised to aid the drafting of effective food-related regulation.

During his speech in the forum, Sin Sideth, director of Camcontrol’s laboratory department, said that boosting the quality of Cambodia-made food items requires the participation of all relevant stakeholders.

From farm to table, checks must be conducted at every step of the supply chain, including production, processing, storage and exporting, Mr Sideth said.

“We all agree that there are still issues when it comes to food safety in Cambodia, but we also agree that there has been great improvement thanks to the strong collaboration of all relevant stakeholders,” he said.

“We always crack down on goods of dubious quality, food that could potentially be contaminated, and foodstuff that contains a large volume of chemicals.

“Simultaneously, we continue to raise awareness of the importance of hygiene and using quality products among vendors, producers, importers, exporters, manufacturers and consumers,” he said, adding that through the strict implementation of existing law the government aims to guarantee the safety of at least 96 percent of the food supply.

Ly Tin, deputy director of the department of certification at the Institute of Standards, deemed the current level of compliance with safety standards in the food industry “acceptable”, but stressed that there are some categories of food that are more vulnerable to contamination than others.

“We can assure the public that now up to 70 percent of the food supply is safe,” Mr Tin said, adding that authorities are working hard to combat poor quality, expired or chemical-laden foods.

“What we need to do now is to strictly enforce the law while continuing to raise awareness among all stakeholders,” Mr Tin asserted.

A key element of improving the food supply chain in Cambodia is the quality and hygiene certifications issued by the Ministry of Health. According to Aing Hoksrun, chief of the ministry’s food safety bureau, so far more than 2,000 eateries have been certified across the country.

“We check restaurants, food courts, and hotels frequently to see whether they are compliant with regulations.”

There are three types of certificates awarded to food outlets in Cambodia – A, B and C – depending of the establishment’s standards of hygiene, he added.

Mekong Institute executive director Dr Watcharas Leelawath also emphasised the role of cooperation among all actors to boost food quality in the Kingdom.

“If we can improve food safety standards, particularly among farmers, we could bump up exports, particularly to other Asean nations where we don’t have to pay tariffs,” Dr Leelawath said.

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