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Foodborne illnesses presented a major challenge to populations and productivity levels, and there was an urgent need to put in place sound food safety management (FSM) systems in the Asia-Pacific region, said Dr. Isimeli Tagicakiverata, Director of Fiji’s National Training & Productivity Centre (NTPC). During the keynote address at the training course on Food Safety Management Systems: Basic Course for SMEs in the Food Industry held in Nadi, he also noted that each year, millions of illnesses could be attributed to contaminated food and, “Therefore foodborne illnesses have serious implications for families as well as government expenditures for healthcare. They can also cause reduced productivity of the workforce.” The course was organized by the Asian Productivity Organization (APO) in cooperation with the NTPC, 20–24 November 2017.
Dr. Tagicakiverata attributed those health-related issues to a lack of awareness of their socioeconomic significance and insufficient understanding of basic concepts, tools, and techniques of FSM such as Good Hygiene Practices, Good Manufacturing Practices, hazard analysis and critical control point systems, and the ISO 22000 FSM standard. “The limited pool of trainers and experts providing training and consultancy in this field and high cost of implementing the requirements relating to food safety, especially for SMEs, are also among the major challenges,” he concluded.
A message to participants from APO Secretary-General Santhi Kanoktanaporn, delivered by NTPC official, emphasized that with the globalization of trade in edible items, food safety had become a critical issue: “Both developed and developing countries share concerns over food safety as international trade and cross-border movements of people and live animals increase. Foodborne illnesses can be especially critical in at-risk populations like children and the elderly, in addition to reducing the productivity of the workforce.”
The objective of the five-day course was to provide food industry productivity practitioners with a thorough understanding of fundamental FSM concepts, principles, tools, techniques, and critical success factors for SMEs in the food industry. Twenty-three participants from 14 APO member countries attended the course, which was conducted by two APO international experts, Hong Kong Veritas Limited Technical Director Howie Ng Ha Wai and QMC Resource Centre Managing Director Yong Kok Seng from Malaysia.
After classroom lectures, presentations, individual and group exercises, and field visits, the course culminated with a written examination aimed at certifying practitioners who are able to identify, use, and explain basic FSM tools, techniques, and approaches, as well adopt an integrated framework to diagnose food safety issues and develop and implement solutions in their own or client organizations.