By Mwangi Mumero
A new toolbox designed to help those operating in the food sector adhere to international food hygiene standards has been launched.
Launched by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), offers 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.
With 600 million people afflicted by foodborne illness every year, priority is being given to food safety especially where food scarcity is rampant.
Research has shown that there is a direct correlation between situations of food scarcity and increased threats to food safety.
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 via an FAO website.
Its contents 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.
In coming up with the standards, FAO experts took special care by considering 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.
“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 provide a framework within which countries can negotiate and food businesses can communicate on food safety amongst themselves”, observed Corinna Hawkes, FAO’s director of food systems and food safety division.
The aim of the toolbox is to give all food business operators- from the farm or further along the value chain, an instrument that enables them to better engage with local food safety authorities to produce, process and distribute safe food.
The toolbox also caters for those with an institutional role, such as government officials, academia, and capacity-building organizations.
This toolbox, initially available in three languages -English, French and Spanish-, is among the resources that aid such initiatives.
Future plans include the collection of feedback and possibly expand the toolbox to provide more in-depth guidance for other sectors of the agrifood system, such as fisheries.
Academia has already expressed an interest in using it as a basis for creating dedicated courses on food safety.