Mekong Institute brought together 21 local public health officials and restaurant operators from Yangon, Myanmar, for the Food Safety Learning Event on Food Hygiene Certification and Grading System for Food Businesses. Held on June 20, the half-day event sought to provide a platform for public and private sector representatives to discuss challenges and opportunities in strengthening local certification system for small food businesses in Yangon. Officials from the Yangon City Development Committee (YCDC), Yangon regional departments of the Ministry of Health and Sports, and Myanmar Restaurant Association participated in the said workshop.
In her welcome remarks, Ms. Maria Theresa Medialdia, Director of MI’s Agricultural Development and Commercialization Department, underscored that improving local food control systems in general and food inspection in particular is crucial in enhancing the overall food safety situation in Myanmar. She emphasized that safe food handling has increasingly been an important development issue in many countries, especially in view of the threats of foodborne illnesses. By inviting members of the public and private sectors in Yangon, Ms. Medialdia hoped that the learning event would serve as a venue to strengthen partnerships to improve food hygiene certification in the city.
Dr. Than Than Lwin, Head of the YCDC’S Health Department, then provided an overview on the current roles and responsibilities of her organization. In Yangon, the YCDC is primarily mandated to ensure food safety compliance among food business operators, including the issuance of operating licenses, approval of health certificates, medical inspection of food handlers, as well as providing training among local stakeholders. Dr. Than Than Lwin also highlighted the need for improved regulations and stronger enforcement to comply with national and local standards. She also recommended adopting strategies to improve inter-agency cooperation and coordination, strengthen human resource capacity, and raise public awareness on proper food hygiene and sanitation practices.
Mr. Chailert Kingkaewcharoenchai, Public Health Technical Officer from the Bureau of Food and Water Sanitation of Thailand’s Ministry of Public Health was also present in the event to share Thailand’s experience with the ‘Clean Food, Good Health’ initiative. Started 20 years ago, the campaign sought to reduce the risk of foodborne diseases from small food businesses; promote clean and hygienic food services for local and foreign tourists; and strengthen local government’s role in ensure food safety at the local level. Mr. Kingkaewcharoenchai also shared the major criteria covered by the current food inspection and certification system as well as the challenges they faced in implementing the project.
After the presentations, there was an open discussion among participants on how an effective food hygiene certification and grading system in Yangon would look like. Other issues that were tackled included possible roadblocks as well as critical success factors that need to be considered before upgrading the current food control system.
Under the New Zealand Aid Programme-funded PROSAFE (Promoting Safe Food for Everyone) Project, this activity tried to address one of the project’s goal of increasing public sector commitment and engagement of the private sector to put in place integrated mechanisms that would lead to demonstrable changes in food safety around the CLMV region.