Building Capacity for Food Safety in the Greater Mekong Subregion

Food Industry Asia (FIA) has launched a partnership with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the GMS Working Group on Agriculture (GMS WGA) to facilitate multi-stakeholder dialogue around challenges and opportunities for increasing safety and sustainability standards across food systems and products in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS).

Through the joint facilitation of the Siem Reap Policy Forum and Public-Private Dialogues, which took place on the sidelines of The Second GMS Agriculture Ministers’ Meeting (GMS AMM-2) in Siem Reap, Cambodia, 6-8 September 2017, FIA's involvement was hallmarked by an industry statement made by Mr Kim Keat Ng, Chairman of FIA's Science and Technical Committee, on proposals by the private sector to strengthen food safety systems in the GMS.


Mr Kim Keat Ng, Chairman of Food Industry Asia's Science and Technical Committee, delivers a statement on FIA's commitment to partnering with the Greater Mekong Subregion Working Group on Agriculture (GMS WGA) to strengthen food safety systems in the region. The statement was presented during The Second GMS Agriculture Ministers' Meeting (GMS AMM-2) in Siem Reap, Cambodia, on 8 September 2017.

In alignment with the GMS Strategy and Siem Reap Action Plan for Promoting Safe and Environment-Friendly Agro-Based Value Chains 2018-2022, as well as FIA’s strategic focus in the area of Food Safety, Mr Ng highlighted a number of areas for collaboration that are expected to immediately yield positive results, including:

1. Traceability through the piloting of GS1 barcode-based systems for facilitation and monitoring of cross-border trade, as well as the establishment of Government-to-Government, Business-to-Government, and Government-to-Business data-sharing;
2. Establishment of mechanisms for laboratory capacity-building across leadership, management and technical levels;
3. Food safety risk communication through the collaborative development of the ICT platforms such as AINS 2.0 as a GMS food safety communication tool and knowledge repository unit;
4. Promotion of the harmonisation of food safety standards that will enhance trade through the facilitation of public-private dialogues; and
5. Enhancing national legislation and regulations on food safety through public-private forums.

Participants from across government, the private sector, academia and civil society engage in a panel discussion during the Siem Reap Policy Forum in Siem Reap, Cambodia, on 6 September 2017.

The Siem Reap Policy Forum brought stakeholders from across government, industry, academia, development bodies, inter-governmental organisations (IGOs) and other civil society together to discuss the topic of “GMS: Towards inclusive, safe and sustainable agriculture value chains”. Participants came together to drive the discussion on food safety, quality assurance and inclusive value chains forward.

Discussion topics ranged from consumer perceptions and demands in the areas of food production, consumption and sustainability; to the state of play, opportunities and challenges in food value chains; and the promotion of inclusive sustainable public-private partnership in the GMS agri-food supply. In the session on partnership, Mr Bruce Blakeman, Vice President, Corporate Affairs, Asia-Pacific, Cargill, Incorporated, who was part of the FIA delegation in attendance at the week's events, spoke on how the private sector can work with government to develop robust safety and quality assurance systems in the GMS.

Ms Nicola Bonnefoy, Food Safety Manager at Food Industry Asia (FIA) (centre), led a discussion with panelists (left to right) Mr Christopher May, Managing Director, Bioglobal Consultancy Ltd,; Mr Patrik Jonasson, Director, Public Policy Asia-Pacific, GS1; Mr Kim Keat Ng, Chairman, FIA's Science and Technical Committee; and Dr Paul Young, Senior Director, Government Affairs, Waters Corporation, on opportunities for driving the agenda of strengthened food safety forward, as part of the Siem Reap Policy Forum in Siem Reap, Cambodia, on 6 September 2017.

Ms Nicola Bonnefoy, FIA's Food Safety Manager, led a panel discussion with leaders and experts from industry and civil society, which looked at opportunities for moving the food safety agenda in the region forward. Panellists spoke on a range of methods, such as the GS1 track-and-trace system to facilitate cross-border food trade, the private sector’s role in opportunities for harmonising the food safety regulatory framework, and, as part of laboratory capacity-building, selecting the right technical and technological solutions for water and food safety in the GMS.

The FIA delegation (left) meets with government officials from the six Greater Mekong Subregion countries in a closed-door session, as part of the Public-Private Dialogues in Siem Reap, Cambodia, on 7 September 2017.

Chaired by Mr Ramesh Subramaniam, Director General, Southeast Asia Regional Department (SERD), ADB; and H.E. Mr Veng Sakhon, Minister, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Kingdom of Cambodia, the FIA delegation led by Ms Bonnefoy, which comprised Mr Ng; Mr Patrik Jonasson, Director, Public Policy Asia-Pacific, GS1; Dr Paul Young, Senior Director, Government Affairs, Waters Corporation; Dr Daniel Hammer, Head, Nestlé Quality Assurance Centre, Singapore; and Ms YiFan Jiang, FIA’s Head of Science and Regulatory Affairs, met with government officials from the six agriculture ministries to discuss possible areas of collaboration between GMS governments and the food industry.

Discussions touched on the importance of a long-term, sustainable food chain system that is competitive; one that requires inter-ministerial and inter-sectorial collaboration, as well as the complement between a macro perspective of the food safety culture across the GMS, and more micro-level efforts of training and capacity-building within food safety systems.

Next steps for FIA, ADB and its industry partners include laboratory training for representatives from each GMS country, the piloting of barcode-based systems for effective cross-border trade, and the launch of a risk communication toolkit catered for regulators across the GMS region.

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