Forty-five health and tourism officials and business representatives identified coping strategies to strengthen the resilience and competitiveness of the food service industry at the Food Safety Forum on “Challenges and Opportunities of Cambodia Food Service Industry Amid COVID-19” in Phnom Penh, Cambodia on November 24, 2020.
Organized by Mekong Institute (MI), in collaboration with the Department of Drugs and Food (DDF) of the Ministry of Health (MOH) and the Cambodia Restaurant Association (CRA), the activity opened a multi-sectoral exchange of information that will broaden the country’s food safety network and enhance the services and safety of food service stakeholders.
“This is a platform for action for us to collectively identify and jointly implement cohesive approaches that will help the food service industry keep pace with the demands of a new market,” Ms. Maria Theresa Medialdia, MI Director of Agricultural Development and Commercialization, said during her opening statement.
In Cambodia, thousands of people are affected by foodborne illnesses because of improper practices in food preparation such as the use of unsafe water or raw materials and cross-contamination. With the food service industry’s shift towards takeout and delivery services to meet rising consumer needs in the new normal, Ms. Medialdia underscored the need for deeper public-private collaboration to help the food service industry secure and maintain consumer trust, while it diversifies its business strategies.
Mr. Arnaud Darc, President of CRA and Chief Executive Office and Chairman of Thalias Hospitality Group, supported this statement, adding that the forum allowed for proactive partnerships to scale up support to safeguard the health, livelihood, and employment of food industry workers.
“The food service industry has shown great adaptability during this pandemic. Our next step now is to help our food, tourism, and hospitality services remain competitive and dynamic. One way is to ensure that we apply and comply with food safety and health standards, with help from organizations such as MI, for the steady recovery of our industries,” he said.
In addition, Dr. Heng Bunkiet, Director of DDF of MOH extended his appreciation to MI and New Zealand Aid Programme for their longstanding commitment in working with government to strengthen food safety systems in Cambodia under the PROSAFE project. He also explained that open discussions such as the forum was an effective avenue for government to share investments and progress it has made in stabilizing food supply chains, which can be built on by the business and private sectors for more holistic and long-term transformation.
“I am confident that after today, we will come up with a unified plan and strategies to better respond to this pandemic and help revive our national economy,” he said.
This was the fourth blended online and onsite forum of MI under the PROSAFE project, with Cambodian participants present at the Phnom Penh Hotel, while others attended via Zoom conference.