ASEAN’s Progress on the harmonization of food control and safety requirements and principles
By the end of this year, ASEAN is going to achieve the goal on integrating as the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), a single market and production base with high competitiveness.
Along the way, the AEC Blueprint has been recognized as a master plan guiding the establishment of the AEC by 2015.
As a monitoring tool, the AEC scorecard was developed and has been used to ensure a timely implementation of the AEC initiatives. It reports the progress of measures conducted for contributing the economic integration.
Among others, AEC scorecard identifies measures on standards and conformance for prepared foodstuff products. The measures are responsible by the Product Working Group on Prepared Foodstuffs (PFPWG) of the ASEAN Consultative Committee on Standards and Quality (ACSSQ).
The harmonization of ASEAN food control and safety requirements and principles is one of measures identified in the AEC scorecard. Reporting by the AEC scorecard, progress made by PFPWG on this measure can be described below.
ASEAN Harmonised of Food Control and Safety Requirements and Principles
ASEAN harmonized documents concerning food control and food safety have been elaborated on the basis of Codex guidelines and texts. Most of them are the adoptions of respective Codex principles with modifications (MOD).
The documents are developed by PFPWG and will be submitted for approval from ACCSQ and subsequently SEOM (Senior Economic Officials Meetings).
As common regulations and standards, these documents will be implemented by the ASEAN Member States to ensure food safety and food control system among the region. This will create and maintain the confidence on consumer protection and facilitate trade in foodstuffs in regional and international level.
The documents include the followings.
1. ASEAN Common Food Control Requirements (ACFCRs)
1.1 ASEAN Principles and Guidelines for National Food Control systems (CAC/GL 82-2013, MOD)
The principles provide practical guidance to assist the national government, and their competent authority in the design, development, operation, evaluation and improvement of the national food control system. The document emphasizes on the key principles and core elements of an efficient and effective food control system.
1.2 ASEAN General Principles of Food Hygiene (CAC/RCP 1-1969, Rev.4-2003, MOD)
While providing foundation for ensuring food hygiene, the document emphasizes on the key hygiene controls at each
stage of the food chain from primary production through to final consumption. In addition, it recommends HACCP - based approach to enhance food safety as described in an annex.
The general principles are recommended to governments, industry (including individual primary producers, manufacturers, processors, foodservice operators and retailers) and consumers alike.
1.3 The draft to ASEAN General Standards for the Labelling of Pre-packaged Food
Currently, the document is in the revision process of PFPWG.
In principle, it will be an adoption of Codex standard for labelling.
The document is supposed to apply to all prepackaged foods to be offered to consumers or for catering purpose. It will provide the guidance on general requirement for the labelling of prepackaged foods for governments, regulatory authorities, food industries and retailers, and the consumers.
NOTE: Documents No.2 - 4 were approved by ACCSQ. They will be subsequently submitted for approval from SEOM.
2.ASEAN Principles for Food Import and Export Inspection and Certification (CAC/GL 20 MOD)
The document provides principles that should be considered and applied in inspection and certification system for controlling food import and export (e.g., fitness for purpose, risk assessment, equivalency, and transparency).
By recognizing these principles, the inspection and certification systems would not hinder both regional and international trade.
3.ASEAN Guidelines for the Design, Operation, Assessment and Accreditation of Food Import and Export Inspection and Certification Systems (CAC/GL 26 MOD)
The document provides governments a framework for the development of import and export inspection and certification systems.
Importantly, the document aims to deal with the recognition of equivalence of inspection and/or certification systems and not with standards related to specific food products or their components (e.g., food hygiene, additives and contaminants, labelling and quality requirements).
4.ASEAN Guidelines for Food Import Control Systems (CAC/GL 47 MOD)
This document provides a framework for the development and operation of an import control system to protect consumers and facilitate fair practices. At the same time, it can be ensured that unjustified technical barriers to trade are not occurred.
The guidelines cover general characteristics that should be considered in food import control systems.
NOTE: Document No.5 will be submitted for approval from ACCSQ and subsequently SEOM.
5.Guideline on Inspection and Certification of Food Hygiene
The document aims to provide practical guidance to assist the national governments of ASEAN Member States, and their competent authority in inspection and certification of food hygiene. It also provides checklist for food hygiene inspection of food establishments.
The guideline is designed according to the ASEAN General Principles of Food Hygiene, one of the ASEAN Common Food Control Requirements (ACFCR).
Progress and achievement made by PFPWG on the harmonization of ASEAN food control and safety requirements and principles can be considerably recognized as mentioned above. They are one of significant contributions for ASEAN to move towards a single market and production base.
However, for the meantime, prior to the end of this year, ASEAN still has challenges to deal with. By ASEAN’s strong effort and cooperation, it is expected that the region is going to reach the final goal of AEC by the end of this year, 2015.