“Food safety is a multi-sectoral concern and it needs immediate action.”
This was the key message of Dr. Tun Zaw, Director of Food Safety Division of the Department of Food and Drug Administration (FDA), during the National Knowledge Sharing Forum on Food Safety in Myanmar held on August 8 in Yangon, Myanmar. Organized by Mekong Institute (MI), through the support of the New Zealand Aid Programme (NZAP), the forum gathered 27 Myanmar participants from five food safety training programs held since late 2016.
At the start of the one-day forum, Dr. Khin Chit, Deputy Director General of FDA, welcomed all participants and thanked MI for providing an opportunity for MI-Food Safety Project alumni to discuss problems, potentials, and needs in improving food safety in Myanmar. Ms. Maria Theresa Medialdia, Director of MI’s Agricultural Development and Commercialization Department, then outlined the objectives of the one-day forum and encouraged the participants to share their experiences in working towards safer fresh produce in the country. She also acknowledged the presence of senior-level officials from partner agencies and organizations. Other special guests in attendance include (a) Daw Win Win Kyi, President of the Food Science and Technology Association; (b) U Sein Thaung Oo, Vice Chairman of Myanmar Food Processors and Exporters Association; (c) Dr. Htet Kyu, Advisor of the Myanmar Fruit, Flower, and Vegetable Producer and Exporter Association; and (d) U Maung Maung, Secretary of Myanmar Consumers Union.
In his keynote speech, Dr. Tun Zaw further highlighted current efforts in promoting improved food safety practices in the country. He shared that the new Myanmar Food Law is currently being reviewed and amended in the parliament. He emphasized that the new Food Law—with Codex Alimentarius as its main reference standard—is trying to include new provisions that would address the challenges and issues faced by both public and private sectors. Dr. Tun Zaw concluded his speech by identifying current needs and gaps on food safety in Myanmar, including limited human and financial resources as well as the lack of effective regulatory frameworks. He hopes that the partnerships fostered through the MI-FSP would be able to fill in these gaps and provide an avenue to strengthen public-private cooperation.
After quick presentations on the highlights of the safe food training courses by representatives of each courses, the participants who completed their action plan shared their experiences through posters in the information market session. This session allowed participants to describe their activities, explain how were they able to address issues and challenges, and highlight their action plans’ outcomes and outputs. In the last session, the participants were divided into groups to identify sector-based food safety priorities. Taking stock of the identified issues and activities from the group discussions, Ms. Medialdia concluded the forum by emphasizing that these information will be used in framing possible targets and deliverables in the project’s second phase.