The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) will launch a comprehensive, and accessible toolbox designed to help all those operating in the food sector adhere to international food hygiene standards.
The toolbox, to be launched on Wednesday (June 7), coincides with World Food Safety Day 2023. It is based on the Codex Alimentarius (Latin for “food code”), a collection of standards, guidelines and codes of practice managed by FAO and the World Health Organization (WHO) that aims to protect consumer health and promote fair practices in food trade.
The toolbox has come following requests from countries to make Codex guidance more accessible.
Currently available in three languages (English, French and Spanish), the toolbox translates the extensive set of guidelines and norms governing Good Hygiene Practices (GHP) and Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) into easily digestible information through an FAO website.
The FAO has said that special care was taken to consider the challenges faced by small food business operators and producers in low and middle-income countries. For instance, the website has been designed to work well on handheld mobile devices, which in some developing countries are far more widespread than computers.
The overarching aim, as stated by the FAO is to give all food business operators, whether on the farm or further along the value chain, and regardless of size and location, an instrument that enables them to better engage with local food safety authorities to produce, process and distribute safe food.
Additionally, the toolbox is said to cater for people with an institutional role, such as government officials, people in academia, and capacity-building organisations.
Its technical content was developed and reviewed jointly by FAO Food Safety Officers and a team from the Department of Food Science, University of Guelph in Canada.
The content of the toolbox include guides to personal hygiene, such as how to educate external visitors entering a food production site, the correct procedure and frequency for hand washing, and suggestions for appropriate clothing.
Corinna Hawkes, FAO’s director of Food Systems and Food Safety Division said, “This toolbox is an important point of reference for food safety globally. It provides not only the internationally agreed upon principles of food safety, but also sets a common language, which in turn provides a framework and a commonality within which countries can negotiate and food businesses can communicate on food safety amongst themselves.”
Strengthening food safety
The FAO highlighted that there is a direct correlation between situations of food scarcity and increased threats to food safety and has said that, “when food is scarce, people will go to great lengths to keep themselves and their families fed.” With 600 million people afflicted by foodborne illness every year, one of the organisation’s priority areas is to help ensure safe food for everyone.
Together with WHO, FAO provides the advice that forms the scientific basis of Codex Alimentarius standards. They also provide support in implementing standards and developing legislative frameworks and capacities to ensure food safety.
The FAO has indicated that going forward, they plan to collect feedback and possibly expand the toolbox to provide more in-depth guidance for other sectors of the agri-food system, such as fisheries.
World Food Safety Day 2023 is marked by a hybrid high-level event featuring QU Dongyu, the FAO director-general, and Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO director-general. This year’s event coincides with the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the Codex Alimentarius Commission.
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