Thirty MI alumni from public and private sectors attended the National Knowledge Sharing Forum on Food Safety held in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Organized last August 1, the forum serve as a venue for Cambodian participants from the first five Mekong Institute-Food Safety Project (MI-FSP) training programs to share experiences and lessons learned in developing and implementing their respective action plans.
Mr. Dim Theng, Deputy Director General of Cambodia Import-Export Inspection and Fraud Repression Directorate General (Camcontrol), welcomed and thanked participants from relevant line ministries and stakeholders for spending their time to participate in this important forum. According to him, “food safety is multi-sectoral concern and has far reaching effects beyond direct public health consequences—it undermines food exports, tourism, livelihoods of food handlers and economic development in general, particularly for developing countries.”
Mr. Dim Theng also mentioned that the food safety challenges in Cambodia become more complex in the context of regional integration and globalization. To improve the country’s food safety system, he emphasized that all key government agencies, encompassing agriculture, industry, trade and health, need to collaborate and engage with the private sector and civil society including consumer groups.
On the other hand, Dr. Watcharas Leelawath, Executive Director of MI, acknowledged the New Zealand Aid Programme (NZAP) for funding and Camcontrol for serving as the project’s focal point in Cambodia. He then provided a brief background of the MI-SFP and key activities including conducting the training needs assessment, developing of training curricula, delivering of the safe food courses addressing various challenges along value chain, and post training outreach support.
Dr. Leelawath also highlighted that food safety is a shared responsibility and require food safety policies and capable human resources. It is important to work with all key stakeholders along the food production chain—from farmers and manufacturers to vendors and consumers. This, according to him, is an aspect that the MI-FSP tries to address—assisting the region in exporting to bigger and higher-end markets. However, this could only be done through the participants’ help and cooperation, which, in the case of MI training programs, take the form of carrying out action plans and sharing knowledge and experiences in the national forum.
Five representatives from each training program presented the highlights and their reflections on the safe food course they attended and also shared lesson learned in implementing their action plans. During break out group discussions, the participants were divided into groups to identify key food safety issues faced by each ministry and small- and medium-sized agro-processing enterprises. The identified issues in the Forum are valuable information for MI to determine further supporting activities to enhance food safety in the country.
This activity is second in the series of national knowledge sharing forums to be held in the region. Similar activities will be held in Myanmar and Lao PDR in August.