FAO helps countries measure progress on food safety indicators, mitigation



A pilot project confirmed the possibility of using food safety indicators to strengthen national control systems, but the results are not comparable between countries.

Several countries in the Asia-Pacific have requested the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) to provide advice on the development of food safety indicators.

The four countries that have led the development of the indicators are Bhutan, China, the Cook Islands and the Philippines. They vary in their capabilities and have been chosen to show how such indicators are an approach that can be adapted to different realities. The results of the project were published ahead of a webinar on adding a food security indicator to the Sustainable Development Goals.

The use of indicators helps to collect data that provides evidence for action, to allocate resources, identify gaps, measure achievements and progress, and support project proposals for improving food security .

Not to compare countries
FAO has identified 40 indicator areas relevant to Asia-Pacific, including trade, public confidence, emergency preparedness, inspection, certification, and testing and analysis. However, the advice is to start with a maximum of five and have a specific goal in mind.

Standardized sets of specific indicators may not reflect complex food safety situations in different national contexts, according to the report. the the guide says that indicators used by different countries should not be compared and do not constitute a scoring system or a benchmark for comparisons between countries.

“Countries have expressed strong reservations about disclosing findings indicating inadequate national food control systems. The unwanted label of unsafe food situations assigned to a country is the worst-case use case of food safety indicators. This label will have a direct and negative impact on trade, tourism and economies, ”according to the guide.

In one country, the number of reported cases of salmonellosis and listeriosis was chosen as an endpoint, but this could not be drawn to any conclusions as more cases were associated with tighter surveillance.

The number of foodborne infections, epidemics and contamination cases was deemed inappropriate for measuring the food safety situation in a country. If a country does not have an effective foodborne disease surveillance system, it may have limited or no data. This means that the number of reported infections could be deceptively low. This does not necessarily mean that the country has a low number of foodborne illnesses.

Another country considered increasing the number of meat inspectors trained in official slaughterhouse controls while a third focused on food import controls.

RAM and backyard agriculture
FAO has also recently published papers on antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and backyard breeding and slaughter.

AMR occurs when microorganisms like bacteria, fungi, viruses and parasites develop resistance to antibiotics or other antimicrobial substances. The inappropriate and excessive use of antimicrobials in human health and agriculture has exacerbated the problem. As a result, some infections in humans are becoming increasingly difficult to treat.

Since AMR is about food, humans, animals and the environment, it would be long and confusing to create new legislation on an issue covering so many different areas, so it is suggested to adapt the existing regulation.

Having maximum residue limits for pesticides and antimicrobials can have a direct impact on AMR. One area that needs to be better understood is how and whether substances approved as additives in food, or to ensure hygiene in food production, contribute to the spread of resistance, according to the document.

The other publication deals with how to ensure health and safety in small animal production. The aim is to help authorities provide guidance, governance and education to the community to promote the use of animals as a source of food, while minimizing the risks associated with food safety.

Asia-Pacific has a long history in raising livestock at the household level and the practice is linked to traditional and cultural practices and economic development in low-medium rural and socio-economic communities. It covers poultry, pigs, cattle, buffaloes, sheep, goats and fish.

The majority of meat produced in Asia-Pacific is destined for a hot supply, either for direct consumption at home or in the village, or for secondary sale in wet markets.

There is a risk that pathogens, parasites and chemical residues of food origin contaminate food of animal origin and that diseases can be transmitted from animals or food to humans. These risks can be managed through good animal management practices that promote animal health such as vaccination, post-slaughter hygiene measures such as access to appropriate facilities, transport and storage, inspections and waste management.

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