Mekong Institute (MI), through its PROSAFE (Promoting Safe Food) Project, continues its commitment to strengthen food safety capacities in the region. Today, October 8, the regional training on Food Hygiene and Sanitation for Food Handlers opens at the MI Residential Training Center in Khon Kaen, Thailand. The 5-day training gathers participants from the government and food service sectors in Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, and Vietnam (CLMV).
Anchored on participatory processes and action learning, the training focuses on Good Hygiene Practices (GHP), which lays the foundation for other food safety management systems. It equips participants with basic principles of food safety, hygiene, sanitation, hazards, and control processes; guidance on compliance to food safety standards and legislation; and practical knowledge covering food storage, handling, and preparation as well as personal hygiene and premises cleaning and sanitation.
Addressing participants at the opening ceremony, MI Executive Director Dr. Watcharas Leelawath underscores the importance of ensuring food is safe and suitable for human consumption. “Food safety directly impacts public health and social well-being. More so, it overarches interrelated issues such as trade, tourism, economy, and development.”
Records on food safety incidents in CLMV have been attributed to poor hygiene and sanitation practices among food handlers in food service operations such as restaurants, catering, street food vendors, etc. In 2016 alone, approximately 1,000 cases of food poisoning were reported in Cambodia; while in 2014, Myanmar Times reported that more than one-third of 150 samples collected from food vendors were positive for either Staphylococcus aureas or Bacillus cereus, two common types of bacteria that can lead to food poisoning. In Lao PDR, studies have shown that contaminated water used for cooking have been linked to foodborne and gastrointestinal illness outbreaks in Luang Prabang. In Vietnam, awareness campaigns have been launched to address growing food safety incidents in the country.
Tapping the role of participants, Dr. Leelawath explains “We believe that you, our participants, are the real change agents toward strengthening food safety culture in the region.” Ultimately, participants are expected to implement action plans in their respective workplace and/or countries to be able to translate gained knowledge into tangible results.
The PROSAFE Project is the second phase of the MI-Food Safety Project supported by the New Zealand Aid Programme (NZAP).