Changes in the food supply chain and the increasing sophistication of food testing analytical methodologies means that the food industry has to constantly develop and learn how to improve our quality and food safety systems and put in place robust standards to protect consumers.

Director of Scientific and Regulatory Affairs & Design Safety for PepsiCo Asia, John Nielson, said “recent food safety scares in Asia highlight the need for an integrated, harmonised approach to food standards”.

Being able to test for new compounds, at increasingly minute levels, allows us to drive higher food safety and quality standards – an assurance that becomes increasingly critical with the globalisation of the food supply chain.

As new compounds in food are discovered and analytical methodologies develop and improve it becomes necessary to make risk-based judgements on how they should be managed and this is critical to maintaining consumer confidence in the safety of food products.

Mr Nielson said that harmonisation also encourages higher food safety and quality standards.

“Having a common set of food standards and processes in place will facilitate regional discussions on improving the quality and safety of food. This means, if trace compounds or residues are found in certain food products, a collaborative and science-based approach can be adopted, ensuring the right information about the issue is available across different markets and proportionate, risk-based decisions can be taken.”

“Harmonised standards set benchmarks for food companies to regulate the manufacture, storage, distribution and sale of their products to ensure that safe food is consistently available to consumers, wherever they happened to buy the product” he said.

Highlighting the importance of harmonisation, leaders of the national food industry associations across ASEAN have recently formed the ASEAN Food and Beverage Alliance (AFBA) to be officially launched on 18 April.

The Alliance will provide the industry with an engaging platform to accelerate the harmonisation of food standards in South East Asia. Mr Nielson, a member of the AFBA Executive Board, explained “AFBA is a dedicated vehicle to drive harmonisation across the region and will work together with various industry associations and key stakeholders to represent the food industry at the policy table.”

He added: “The Alliance will provide technical input and guidance on ASEAN’s policies, encouraging growth and a harmonised set of food standards across the region, making safe, high quality food more accessible and available for the region’s fast-growing population”