Stakeholders Aim to Elevate Cambodia’s Food Standards

Stakeholders gathered to commemorate World Food Safety Day by discussing ways to improve nutrition and food safety nationwide
Vendors sell on food in Phnom Penh. Kiripost/Siv Channa
Vendors sell on food in Phnom Penh. Kiripost/Siv Channa

To commemorate World Food Safety Day and spur action on the issue, 300 representatives from the agriculture, food, and nutrition industries gathered on Wednesday.

As a show of support and a call to action, policymakers, development partners, non-governmental organizations, key experts, the private sector, researchers, lecturers, students, farmers, and youth organizations stood together to play a role in ensuring food safety for all.

Under the direction of the Council for Agricultural and Rural Development (CARD), Cambodia celebrated ‘World Food Safety Day’ for the second time, under the theme ‘Food standards save lives’.

Dith Tina, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF), said foodborne illness is a fundamental public health issue in Cambodia and needs to be tackled through various stakeholders to solve the issue and provide safe and healthy foods at affordable prices.

“We are committed to ensuring that our food supply is safe and healthy for all Cambodians through a multisectoral approach, which will lead to safe and healthy diets, accessible through proper pricing and responsive to all nutrition issues,” he said.

He added that the task requires strong stakeholder cooperation and a willingness among respective stakeholders to implement relevant food safety practices by comprising consumers, the private sector and Government at national and sub-national levels.

In Cambodia, there is still a serious public health issue with food safety. More than half of the disease outbreaks that were recorded between 2010 and 2015 were brought on by diarrhea or food poisoning.

In addition, 134 occurrences of foodborne illnesses between 2014 and 2019 were linked to poor food preparation hygiene, improper temperature management for storage, cross-contamination, and the use of questionable ingredients and water.

Nargiza Khodjaeva, acting WHO representative to Cambodia, raised that food safety and nutrition not only contribute to health and well being of citizens, but also help support national economies, stimulating sustainable development.

“A global pandemic, climate change and rapidly changing food systems have an impact on the safety of food. Only when food is safe can it meet nutritional needs and help adults to live an active and healthy life and children to grow and develop,” he mentioned.

“Southeast Asia has some of the highest incidences and death rates related to foodborne illness, the positive steps the Royal Government of Cambodia has made to strengthen food safety to date will help safeguard human health for all Cambodians,” he added.

Kosal Oum, Food and Agriculture Organization at the United Nations (FAO) Assistant Representative Programme, marked the gathering of various stakeholders as a sign of growing spirit of collaboration to ensure the value chain from farm to table is safe for both the food environment and consumers' choices.

“Food safety is very much the responsibility of all parties along the food chain, from producers, processors, food regulatory bodies, business owners, to consumers,” he said.

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The discussions at the commemoration event covered a variety of topics, including food standards in production, food standards for street vendors and stallholders, safeguarding consumer health and ensuring ethical business practices in the food trade, food standards and labeling, school food standards, and the path towards global compliance, among others.

Sok Narin, United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) Country Representative, said Cambodia’s food processing industry has the potential for economic growth, especially for exporting to the global market.

“We are currently assisting in developing a legal framework and control system while building capacity to ensure food standards are improved and public health requirements are met,” he said.

The event offered a chance to reflect on progress made in promoting the development of food standards and to establish a plan with shared objectives for the future.

These achievements include King Norodom Sihamoni's passage of the Food Safety Law in 2022, as well as other laws and policies, including the Law on Standards of Cambodia, Law on Consumer Protection, and Law on the Management of Quality and Safety of Products and Services.

Claire Conan, World Food Programme representative to Cambodia, said the World Food Program in Cambodia is working on food safety in the context of its homegrown school feeding program.

She added, “We are not only feeding hungry children, but also ensuring that the food they eat is safe and healthy,” said Claire Conan, World Food Programme representative to Cambodia.”


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