As the incumbent coordinator for Asia, India inaugurated the 21st Session of the FAO/WHO Coordinating Committee for Asia (CCASIA) in Panaji, Goa. The event is underway since 23 September and will continue till 27 September and the participating delegates are from 18 member countries. Also present at the inaugural ceremony were members of the food sector fraternity including the scientific community, industry and industry associations, international organizations and foreign missions, experts and government officials from Central
Ministries and States and other key stakeholders.
The event showcases India’s commitment to adhering to the International Food Safety Standards. The 21st session of the FAO/WHO Coordinating Committee for Asia will primarily focus on
- deliberationsaround food safety at primary production involving issues and best practices for an evolving region
- critical andemerging issues related to food safety for the region with an effort to identify focused action areas
- explore possibilities of mutual cooperation to enable a mechanism for sharing relevant data/scientific advice withother countries for the purpose of developing regional positions and preparing/ supporting new work proposals
- developing regional standards for food products important from regional trade point of view
In his welcome remarks, Shri Sunil Bakshi, Chair CCASIA and Head, Regulations FSSAI extended a warm welcometo the dignitaries, members of Codex Secretariat and delegates to the inaugural CCASIA ceremony. He emphasized that the main objective of CCASIA is to promotemutual communication and resource sharing to develop regional standards and regulations for food productsand he expressed the hope that the 5-day event would help to further strengthen the food safetypreparedness in the region as a whole.
Also present at the event was Ms Rita Teaotia, Chairperson FSSAI who spoke on the significance of the that “FAO/WHO Coordinating Committee forAsiaas it would “afford its members the opportunity tofocus on the concerns of the Asia and would “pave the way for furthering and ensuring food safety and publichealth as well as trade and economic development in our region and beyond especially as it was a difficult time for trade andglobally economies of some significant and very large markets were slowing down. She stated that “trade tensions and rising protectionismare increasing and in this environment the Codex Alimentarius Commission and CCASIA in particular offer usa great opportunity to work together to strengthen both the Codex systems as well as our regional cooperation.”
She pointed out that Asia, as a region, is perhaps, the most diverse of the Codex regions but the fastest growing. She said that the region shared an ancient history of robust trading relations and that “countries trade extensively with each other and at leastin food, almost 60 percent of food trade is within the region. To my view, this alone is enough reason for us todevelop a common ground for cooperation.”She stressed upon the need to create a network of scientific and researchinstitutions for collection and assimilation of scientific facts and data for the region and an ITenabled information platform to exchange information regarding food frauds and other areas of core interest. Ms Teaotia, while highlighting the role of capacity building initiatives between the Codex member countries in Asia and the need to pool their resources and provide support to least developed countries, also offered on behalf of India and FSSAI, “the capacity we have built-up at the international training centre for food safety and nutrition at Mumbai forsuch capacity building programs.”
Ms. Sarah Cahill, Sr. Food Safety Officer, Codex Secretariat mentioned that “Coordinating Committees are uniqueamong Codex meetings and the focus of such meetings is not only to set standards but to “shine a light onvarious food safety and quality issues in the region”. These meetings provide a forum for collaboration, knowledgesharing and discussions on the new emergent issues so as to take critical decisions onsetting standards that are central to addressing food safety and quality in the region.”
Mr Steve Wearne, Vice-Chair, Codex Alimentarius Commission highlighted that the regional coordinatingcommittees and member countries collectively set the direction and the priorities of Codex. He furthermentioned that the results of the deliberations and key analysis to facilitate the continuingdiscussions would enlighten him to understand what Codex can do to ensure international and national food control systems. Prof. PurwiyatnoHariyadi, Vice-Chair, Codex Alimentarius Commisssion appreciated the joint efforts of thecoordinating committees and mentioned that the “Asian region should aim to have more such initiatives at the regional levelto ensure that key issues unique to the Asia region can be discussed”.
Sridhar Dharmapuri, Senior Food Safety and Nutrition Officer, Food and Agriculture Organization of the UnitedNations highlighted the key essence of two major international conferences on food safety this year – the firstwas in Addis Ababa, co-organized by FAO, WHO and the African Union with a food control and public healthperspective; and the second by FAO, WHO and WTO in Geneva on trade and standards. He further mentioned that “These two high-level events have firmly placed the topic of food safety front and centre of the food agenda,alongside ending hunger and tackling the consequences of climate change. Unlike the other two priorities, foodsafety is under-represented within the SDGs (notably SDG2) but we now have the opportunity to elevate its status onthe international development agenda and integrate it as we proceed towards 2030.”
Dr. Gyanendra Gongal, Technical Officer, WHO SEARO representing Regional Director Dr.PoonalKhetrapal, WHOSEARO highlighted that standards set by Codex are most comprehensive and is of global relevance andcommittees play an important role in ensuring health of people and provision of safe food to the population ofdifferent member countries.
The vote of thanks was delivered by Shri Rajeev Kumar Jain, Executive Director FSSAI and he thanked all theparticipants for such a huge enthusiasm and commitment towards the agenda.