Workshop: In an effort to create awareness on the importance of Codex and the International Food Safety Authorities Network (INFOSAN) activities in the area of food safety, trade and public health, the Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regularity Authority (BAFRA) organised a high-level advocacy meeting on Codex and INFOSAN networking in Paro.

World Health Organisation (WHO), technically and financially supported the two-day meeting that ended on September 20.

Bhutan became a member state of the Codex Alimentarius Commission in 1999.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations and WHO established the Codex Alimentarius or ‘Food Code’ in 1963 to develop harmonised international food standards that protect consumer health and promote fair practices in food trade.

Secretary with the agriculture and forests ministry, Rinzin Dorji, during the opening of the meeting said that Bhutan has committed itself to Codex through adoption and adaption of Codex standards and guidelines with the food safety legislation.

“Such kind of advocacy meeting is necessary to update and review ourselves of the current food safety status but more objectively to improve our food safety systems,” the secretary said.

The secretary added that Bhutan has benefited a lot in terms of gaining international exposure and experiences from being a member of Codex.

“But a lot more needs to be done to meet the increasing challenges of globalisation of food trade and human traffic.”

The resource persons, Dr Gyanendra Gongal and Carmen Saville from WHO’s South East Asia Regional Office in New Delhi, India and Makato Sakashita from FAO Regional Office for Asia and Pacific in Bangkok, Thailand spoke on the Codex procedural manual, revitalisation of regional coordinating committees, role of INFOSAN emergency contact points, among others.

Meanwhile, officials with the agriculture and forests ministry spoke on Bhutan’s experience in Codex activities, the role of national standards body for standards development and relationship with regulatory standards, among others.

Food safety focal officer with BAFRA said that the authority has been functioning as the National Codex Contact Point since 2004 and the INFOSAN Emergency Contact Point since 2014.

“Since then the authority has been implementing the national policy objectives to achieve food safety by setting priorities for food safety standards development,” the officer added.

INFOSAN is a global network of national food safety authorities to promote the rapid exchange of information during food safety related events.

Lack of coordination and adequate awareness on importance of food safety and standards amongst high-level policy and decision makers, and inadequate technical and financial government resources for implementation of national programmes to achieve BAFRA’s aims and objectives in food safety and standards are some of the challenges the authority faces.

Therefore, the meeting was also to sensitise the relevant stakeholders on the work of Codex and INFOSAN, and to build networking for effective communication in the area of food safety and standards at the national level.

About 40 senior-level officials from various government departments and other agencies including officials from FAO and WHO, among others, attended the meeting.

Dechen Tshomo