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In an initiative aimed at improving food safety management (FSM) in SMEs, the Asian Productivity Organization (APO) recently invited leaders from member countries to formulate strategic action plans to help the food-processing industry adopt global quality standards. The forum on Strengthening Food Safety Standards held in Colombo, Sri Lanka, 5–8 March 2018 was attended by senior government officials, production managers, consultants, and food industry executives.
The forum was inaugurated by Chief Guest Wasantha Aluwihare, Sri Lankan State Minister of Agriculture. The minister listed some initiatives taken by the government for ensuring food quality, safety, and security, including the “safety basket” concept encouraging farmers’ organizations to transport vegetables appropriately to maintain quality.
Minister Aluwihare thanked the APO and collaborating organizations for holding the forum in Colombo. Sri Lanka’s National Productivity Secretariat (NPS) and the Hector Kobbekaduwa Agrarian Research and Training Institute (HARTI) were co-organizers with support from the Centre on Integrated Rural Development for Asia and the Pacific (CIRDAP).
Key speakers on the opening day included Secretary B. Wijerathna of Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Agriculture, Director General Tevita G. Boseiwaga Taginivalu of CIRDAP, J.A.D. Roshan of the NPS, Director & CEO K.W.E. Karalliyadda of HARTI, and Program Officer Dr. Shaikh Tanveer Hossain of the APO Secretariat Agriculture Department. Thirty-eight participants from 15 APO member countries and six resource persons from Hong Kong, India, Italy, Poland, Thailand, and the UK attended the forum.
Forum speakers covered ways food processors could adopt and enforce current international safety standards and regulations. Those standards, both public and private, are fundamentally about establishing control, conformance, and compliance in production, processing, and distribution.
With international standards such as GlobalGAP and International Featured Standards requiring third-party certification, speakers explained how APO member countries could meet FSM benchmarks. Since food producers and agrifood exporters need to update operations for certification, the forum also served as a platform for participants to review the most recent food standard revisions and consider appropriate strategies to fulfill their requirements.