Mekong Institute Food Safety Project (MI-FSP) team has met with food safety key stakeholders last June 14-15, 2016 to explore opportunities for cooperation as well as consult with them about possible ways of implementing capacity development activities that will address the priority food safety needs of Cambodia.
With support from New Zealand Aid Programme (NZAP), the project aims for “policy makers in Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Vietnam (CLMV) responsible for developing and implementing food safety regulations to create an enabling food regulatory environment connected to private sector, their needs and market aspirations.” MI will identify the food safety training needs for select value chains and markets; and provide outreach support in regulation preparation and implementation in the four countries.
The first meeting was done with representatives from key government agencies representing Cambodia Import-Export Inspection and Fraud Repression Directorate General (Camcontrol), Ministry of Commerce (MoC), Ministry of Industry and Handicraft (MoIH) and Ministry of Health (MoH). Responding to the purpose of the visit, H. E. Phan Oun, Deputy Director General of Camcontrol shared with MI team knowledge and insight about the current situation of food safety in Cambodia, including roles and responsibilities of key food safety government agencies, identify potential crops which face most problems with food safety management and Cambodia’s priority needs in promoting food safety.
According to H. E. Phan Oun, Cambodia is now in the process of drafting food safety law and it is expected to be finalized soon and sent to the Council of Ministers for approval. The law will establish a Food Safety Authority charged with protecting domestic consumers and ensure that exports meet international standards. The law also lays out a long list of punishable offenses, including selling food that contains harmful substances, mislabeling food, preparing or selling food in unsanitary conditions and operating a food business without a license.
In the current system, “food safety based on the farm to table approach”, significant control of food safety is exercised by MoC and MoIH. Officers of Camcontrol inspect imported foods at the point of entry as well as foods for export. The MoIH is responsible for quality control in manufacturing industries while the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) has a key role in managing the safety and quality of agricultural products as they enter the food chain. The Ministry of Health (MoH) has responsibility for all matters of public health, including assuring the safety and wholesomeness of food offered for sale in Cambodia.
Meanwhile during the meeting, the government agencies have expressed their willingness to cooperate and support all of the project activities. Strengthening the capacity of regulators and inspectors in food safety monitoring and management system including labeling, inspection sampling techniques and laboratory management are among the top priority training needs for Cambodia. The increased knowledge and implementation skills of the food safety regulators and inspectors will enable the food value chain members to adopt and apply food safety standards in food industry were effectively.
To gain more insight on food safety issues, MI team met separately with the agro-processing company and food safety consulting agent. Talking to Ms. Chhorn Vimol, Sales and Marketing Director of Kirirom Food Production Co., Ltd, the team learned about how the company deals with producers to maintain the quality of inputs as well as how to pass the export market requirements, as the firm currently export dried and frozen fruits to Korea, Japan, Hong Kong and USA markets. The discussion was concentrated on the requirements of each international buyer, food safety and hygiene practices in order to protect the health of the local community and boost exports of their products. According to her, the firm is in the evaluation process of getting the international standards Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Points (HACCP) and Food Safety Management System (FSMS)/ISO 22000). Hence, training on food safety management system and access to lab services are needs by local SMEs.
The last meeting was carried out at TUV Rheinland Cambodia where the team explored the experiences of the Structured Program to Achieve Food Safety Excellence in Cambodia (SAFE Cambodia) in order to avoid the overlapping of activities. According to Ms. Alexandra Herbel, General Manager, SAFE Cambodia helped 10 local SMEs adopt international food standards like GMP, HACCP and ISO 22000 and raised awareness about food safety and hygiene amongst local SMEs operating in the agriculture and fishery industries. As a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) initiative, the program was implemented by Asia Society for Social Improvement and Sustainable Transformation(ASSIST) along with TUV Rheinland and DEG.