The international trade of fresh agricultural produce has significantly increased in the last two decades and is considered as one of the main sources of socio-economic growth for the Asia and Pacific region. Recently, many Asian countries are to conclude free trade agreements (FTAs). The FTAs conclusion greatly affects nations’ agricultural sector in various respects because of the elimination of a variety of trade barriers such as tariffs, regulations and so forth. This may bring about a drastic increase in the trade of fresh agricultural produce.
The sector of fresh agricultural produce, however, is facing the biggest challenge in the area of food safety from pre to post-harvest. In other words, from the production phase in the farm up to the consumer’s table, it includes all the steps in the supply chain of fresh products. The recent rise over food safety is a matter of considerable public concern. This growing demand for safe foods has also given rise to the increased awareness over environmentally friendly agricultural production worldwide.
In addition, the recent outbreak of food-borne illnesses in fresh produce has raised great public concerns on the handling of fresh agricultural foods. The outbreaks of food-borne illnesses such as E. coli in lettuce and Salmonella in cantaloupe have raised concerns regarding the potential safety of fresh fruits, vegetables and other farm fresh products.
Food safety covering from the production in farm over consumer’s tables via a variety of stakeholders in the supply chain of fresh agricultural products, therefore, has been increasingly gaining importance in Asia. A wide range of pollutant-sources has recently been causing alarm. The list includes. emerging hazards due to intensive and efficient farming, climate change, postharvest handling/processing of food, and packaging of food in the markets, etc.. Although nations are conscientiously working towards addressing these issues, challenges persist due to the number of stakeholders in the process which have crucial and varied roles in ensuring food safety for consumers.
Countries need to define priorities and goals towards ensuring food safety of fresh agri-produce. It is imperative that issues on food security, public health, consumer rights, access to international and regional markets and standards, and environmental conservation are embedded in the policies that will provide the directions in addressing the food safety issues of fresh products. However, there are some present initiatives being implemented such as advocacy, promotion, and implementation of Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) from production to the harvesting stage; Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) especially during the postharvest phase; and Quality and Safety Assurance Systems, such as HACCP, throughout the food chain to avoid and to control hazards.
The Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development of the Department of Science and Technology (PCAARRD-DOST) is seriously concerned about issues on food safety and quality assurance in fresh agri-produce. One of the identified issues is the lack of quality assurance and food safety guidelines for fresh agri-products. This should be harmonized with the quality standards for fresh tropical fruits and vegetables that has been developed earlier and harmonized with the standards of other ASEAN member-countries as well.
The proposed workshop will examine how policies and practices on food safety of fresh agri-products in the Asia-Pacific region can ensure food security and accessibility of consumers to safe and nutritious food. It will provide a venue to discuss improvements and other needed strategies in ensuring food safety and quality assurance from farm to table for fresh produce, including some policy recommendations and monitoring strategies for the benefit of the consuming public.
Information/Strategies on how to improve food safety and quality assurance in fresh agri-products based on country experiences and learnings. The workshop will provide a venue for the participants to exchange information and share strategies on how to improve food safety and quality assurance in fresh agri-products within the AP region;
Policies passed/implemented on food safety and quality assurance in fresh agri- products. The participating countries will be able to learn/share policies implemented on food safety and quality assurance in fresh agri-products;
Monitoring strategies for policies related to food safety and quality assurance in fresh agri products. The workshop will enable the participants to learn the monitoring strategies employed in each country in terms of implementation of policies including support mechanisms for strict compliance of the producers.
Major issues discussed and recommendations:
Regional Collaboration in Ensuring Food Safety in ASEAN Fruit and Vegetables
Dr. Ma. Concepcion Lizada
Policies and Regulations on GAP and GHP Implementation for Improving Fruit and Vegetables Product Safety in Indonesia
Dr. Yul Harry Bahar