Is there a blueprint for effective food safety capacity building?

DSC_2765Controlling food safety in international supply chains typically serve two goals: to protect consumers from purchasing foods which compromise their health, and to create a level playing field for producers, manufacturers, traders, retailers and any other stakeholder involved in the supply chain.

The second goal is formalized in the WTO SPS agreement and formulates objectives for national authorities to comply with. The first goal is formalized by national law and regulations as well as by private standards demanded by private organisations like retail companies and food manufacturers.

There is no blueprint for designing a framework that will govern the various interests of all stakeholders involved in the most effective and efficient way. Very often both public and private organisations carry out functions both at the same time but from a different perspective or functions may not be carried out according to international standards and recommendations at all. Functions like monitoring and surveillance of food safety hazards, compliance to food safety standards, inspection and enforcement, and communication to the public and other stakeholders.

Other institutions like technical and human capacities greatly affect how functions will perform. Capacities to analyse food safety risks in the laboratory, to design adequate analytical methods,  but also knowledge and skills of food safety managers and inspectors are of crucial importance to make a food safety governance system work. In addition, institutional aspects like level of accountability and social acceptance of and formal support for enforcement strongly determine if control functions will work effectively.

These institutions greatly determine what and how improvements can be made to create a better framework to govern food safety in a country.

These notions are of great importance when a request for technical assistance is called for. In designing a project that is aimed to support such improvements with the aim to improve access to international trade it is important that relevant national institutional aspects are assessed and taken into account.