“Food safety is a multi-sectoral and multi-agency concern and it needs immediate action.”
This was the key message of Ms. Maria Theresa Medialdia, Director of Mekong Institute’s Agricultural Development and Commercialization Department, at her opening remarks during the Food Safety Forum on Strengthening Public Sector Commitment in Promoting Food Safety held on October 22, 2019 in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam.
Organized by Mekong Institute with support from the New Zealand Aid Programme, the forum brought together 34 government officials and private sector representatives working on food safety in Vietnam. Participants in this forum attended this year’s regional training programs under the PROSAFE (Promoting Safe Food for Everyone) Project.
The one-day forum sought to provide a venue to discuss how to improve public sector involvement in addressing food safety issues and concerns, especially in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta region. Several speakers were invited to share current initiatives of the public sector to support local food safety stakeholders and better understand the needs and challenges faced by different sectors in the food supply chain.
Ms. Nguyen Thi Hong Cong, a post-harvest trainer, shared her experience in working with agri-food producers and processors in Lam Dong Province in pursuing safe vegetable production. At present, she is leading a team of MI alumni in supporting local vegetable farmers to comply with Vietnamese Good Agricultural Practices (VietGAP) standards.
Mr. Chu Hong Chau of the Plant Protection Department was also present to discuss his organization’s work, especially in developing and implementing policies and programs related to promoting VietGAP and managing agrichemical use in horticulture. On the other hand, Mr. Nguyen Phuoc Loc of the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Support Center provided an overview of the government’s efforts to enhance local agri-enterprises capacity to meet local and international market demands.
Afterwards, Ms. Phan Hoang Ngan of Hao Phat Catering presented the achievements of her action plan designed to assist local canteen operators to improve their food sanitation and hygiene practices. Mr. Nguyen Dai Ngoc of the Ho Chi Minh Food Safety Management Authority (HCM FSA) also provided insights on the benefits of adopting a single-agency approach to manage food safety at the local level, including HCM FSA’s efforts to establish model safe food markets in the wholesale markets of Ben Thanh, Hoc Mon, and Binh Dien.
Lastly, Dr. Nhan Minh Tri of Can Tho University underscored how universities and academic institutions can contribute in local food safety efforts, which include supporting initiatives to enhance human resources, initiative researches, and promote local knowledge and expertise.
After the presentations, participants were divided into groups to further identify key safe food challenges in each sector and discuss possible areas of collaboration where MI and other organizations can be involved. Broadly, overlapping government mandate and activities, weak human resources, and low public awareness remain to be among the country’s major safe food challenges.
This activity was the last among the series of MI’s food safety forums and learning events in 2019. The PROSAFE activities were designed to strengthen linkages between the public and private sectors so they can collaboratively establish integrated mechanisms that would lead to demonstrable changes in food safety in the region.