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APEC Members Move to Harmonize Food Safety

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APEC Members Move to Harmonize Food Safety
« on: November 21, 2020, 08:37:23 PM »
As the global population grows and pressure on food and water supplies increases, cases of food-borne illness will multiply, the inaugural APEC Food Safety Cooperation Forum was told this week.

Dr. Gardner Murray, a former Australian Chief Veterinary Officer and now special adviser to the Australian Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, told the Forum meeting in the Hunter Valley north of Sydney that climate change and increasing variations in the ecology of environments will force food scientists and regulators to revise their understanding of food pathogens and how to deal with them.

"With environmental damage and climatic variations we are already seeing new diseases emerging and 75% of them are zoonotic diseases (animal diseases that humans can catch)," Dr. Murray told delegates.

"New bugs are appearing and are adapting to the new conditions."

In Australia, for example, bat Lyssavirus has been around for thousands of years but only recently, as bat and human populations are pushed closer together in land and property developments, has the disease begun appearing in humans.

Similarly, research in Vietnam on the spread of the H5N1 flu virus showed that outbreaks spiked during the Tet holiday when people moved about the country with their poultry.

Communicating information about new disease threats to their populations will become more important for food regulators, whose risk analyses and communication messages must be simple, transparent and easy to understand, Dr Murray said.

"For example, in Korea, health authorities put food safety messages on the back of commonly sold packs of toothpicks in restaurants."

Meeting greater demands for food from growing populations has also led to more intensive livestock and agricultural production, genetic manipulation and new processing and preservation technologies producing an "explosion" of new foods. These are foods in which new chemicals are appearing as a part of the manufacturing process.

"As a result of increasing global trade, people movements and the industrialization of production and processing, consumers are potentially exposed to a greater number of food safety hazards than in the past," Dr Murray said.

"Dealing with this threat requires a thorough risk analysis process, the key elements of which are to identify and characterize hazards, assess the risk, manage it and communicate it publicly."

Forum participants agreed to meet again in two years to assess progress made and to respond to member economies' needs in:

Information sharing

Food safety regulatory systems

Food inspection and certification

Technical skills and human resource capacity building

The forum was opened by Senator Brett Mason, the new Parliamentary Secretary to Australia's Minister for Health and Ageing.

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