Wednesday, November 16, 2011


The ever increasing food poisoning episodes in many parts of the world seem to be galvanizing the international community to meet the food safety challenges of future through concrete action as reflected by the reported formation of an alliance between private industry, international agencies and the US government. The proposed creation of a fund, though relatively small now, can be expected to grow in the coming years from contributions from many  successful industries having a stake in ensuring safety of food products marketed by them. There cannot be a better coordinating agency than the World Bank which has the capacity to manage international funds for many productive activities with international ramifications. How effective this effort is going to be, especially in helping the food safety problems faced by developing countries needs to watched and if successful there will be a case to expand the facilities manifold for training and capacity building.

"Announced at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meetings in Hawaii, Waters Corporation (NYSE: WAT), along with Mars Incorporated and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), jointly pledged $1 million to create the first ever Global Food Safety Capacity Building fund. To be managed by the World Bank, the proposed fund will support global food safety improvements through expanded understanding of food safety standards and best practices throughout the food safety system, from farm to fork. Supported by an innovative public-private partnership, the proposed fund builds on the Memorandum of Understanding between the APEC Food Safety Cooperation forum and the World Bank. The fund will leverage APEC's unique food safety training programs while utilizing the World Bank's global reach and contributions from governments and private industry to positively impact global public health. Overall, the goal is to raise $15-20 million over the next 10 years".

One of the disturbing questions amidst all the euphoria generated by the above development is how relevant are the training programs being organized in University of Maryland, USA to the exact needs of many countries of the third world, most of them lacking both decent analytical facilities and minimum critical mass of qualified personnel to carry out some of the sophisticated assessments needed to establish food quality and safety. Besides the range of products which are popular and marketed in many countries differ significantly in composition and physical parameters that entirely new methodology would be needed and one wonders who is going to do this job. Agencies like WHO, World Bank, UNIDO and others must do more to improve the safety monitoring systems in the third world rather than channeling their energy and funds to countries like the US which already have strong capability in the area. Large industries run by MNCs must join such efforts in stead of chasing relentlessly their corporate goals of increasing profits generated through their investments in these countries.


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