Creation of Food Safety Dev’t Council pushed

Erwin P. Nicavera

INDUSTRY stakeholders in Negros Occidental are pushing for the creation of the Food Safety Development Council to ensure stronger implementation of measures geared toward boosting food safety standards in the province.

The move was among the recommendations crafted during the Food Safety Awareness Forum held at the Provincial Capitol Social Hall in Bacolod City on Tuesday.

Marivic Rio, officer-in-charge executive director of Association of Negros Producers-Foundation for Enterprise Development Inc. (ANP-Fedi), said the body will involve stakeholders from both the government and private sectors.

Rio said it will mainly work on leveling up the understanding of Negrenses from all sectors on food safety requirements and standards vital in scaling-up the local food supply chain.

After the forum, the ANP-Fedi along with other partner-stakeholders will forward the recommendation to Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr.

“We are optimistic that the creation of the development council will be realized this year,” Rio said, adding that “through this body, we will also push that all LGUs in the province should have food safety ordinance like that of Bacolod City.”

The ANP-Fedi is pushing for a similar food safety ordinance in all cities and municipalities in Negros Occidental.

Only the implementing guidelines will vary since each locality has different types of food sector, it said.

In terms of composition, Rio said the Food Safety Development Council should be a public-private partnership “given that the latter cannot sustain it on its own.”

Rio pointed out that the implementing agencies are all with the government thus, there is a need to work with the public sector especially in terms of harmonizing the program modules and training services.

“Making sure that we speak the same language will also be one of the main functions of the council,” she said, adding that “it should be headed by somebody from the government with the private sector on the side as enablers.”

The ANP-Fedi, in collaboration with German non-government organization Afos Foundation, through its OURFood Program: Optimizing and Upscaling Roles in the Food Supply Chain, has been advocating food safety in Negros Occidental by assisting companies and producers in complying with the standards.

The groups, however, recognized that there is still lack of awareness among Negrenses, including consumers and producers.

Restaurateur Nestor Evaristo, who talked about food safety in the food service industry during the forum, said most food establishments in Bacolod City are not implementing food safety practices.

“Basic food safety practices like as simple as hand washing and cross contamination can be learned, the problem is the lack of consciousness that there is a need to do so,” Evaristo said, adding that “there is really a pressing need for stricter implementation of the food safety ordinance.”

The forum, participated by about 25 media practitioners and personnel of local government units (LGUs) in the province, was the third of the series of fora initiated by the organization since last month.

The first two activities were attended by consumers and students. The topics included food safety in food processing and service, and good agricultural practices (GAP).

“We recognize the power of media as powerful influencer of the society,” Rio said, adding that LGUs are also playing an important role in ensuring implementation at the ground level.