DA celebrates Food Safety Awareness Week, strengthens Food Safety group

SAN AGUSTIN, PILI, CAMARINES SUR – The Department of Agriculture celebrates October 23 to 27 as Food Safety Awareness Week.

According to the World Health Organization, over 200 diseases including diarrhea and cancer are caused by eating food contaminated with bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemical substances such as heavy metals. These diseases contribute significantly to the global burden of disease and mortality.

“Foodborne diseases are caused by contamination of food and occur at any stage of the food production, delivery and consumption chain. They can result from several forms of environmental contamination including pollution in water, soil or air, as well as unsafe food storage and processing.”

As the agency mandated to implement the Food Safety Act of 2013, the Department of Agriculture in Bicol revitalized the inter-agency composition of the Regional Food Safety Focal Group (RFSFG) through a consultative meeting held on October 10, 2023 at the CBES, DA Compound. It was attended by the heads or representatives of the Regulatory Agencies under DA in Bicol such as the National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS), Agricultural Training Institute (ATI RTC 5), Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority (FPA), National Food Authority (NFA), Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA), Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA), Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI).

Dr. Edgar R. Madrid, Regional Technical Director for Research and Regulations said that the meeting was a meeting of minds to ensure leveling of knowledge and to delineate each concerned agency’s role in the implementation of the Food Safety Act. “We are already doing food safety measures since 2013,” he added.

Rosita M. Imperial, Chief of the Regulatory Division discussed RA 10611 or the “Act to strengthen the food safety regulatory system in the country to protect consumer health and facilitate market access of local foods and food products” otherwise known as “Food Safety Act of 2013” which is being implemented jointly by the DA and the Department of Health (DOH).

“Food safety starts at the farm. Napakalaki ng role ng DA to ensure that the fresh foods we are producing in the farms will not cause harm to its consumers,” Imperial said. She added that there are many challenges in food production including anti-microbial resistance for both humans and animals, and hazards in food production such as harmful residues and contaminations.

One of the efforts of the DA in ensuring food safety is the establishment of the Integrated Laboratories Division which conducts tests on soils, water, animal diseases and pesticide residues in fruits and vegetables. Meanwhile, the Regulatory Division is advocating for and helping farms comply with Good Agricultural Practices and Good Animal Husbandry Practices to promote safe and healthy food and non-food agri products while also considering the safety of the workers and the environment.

Section 28 of RA 10611 entitled Licensing, Registration of Establishments states that appropriate authorizations shall be developed and issued in the form of a permit, license and certificate of registration or compliance that would cover establishments, facilities engaged in production, post-harvest handling, processing, packing, holding or producing food for consumption in accordance with the mandated issuances of regulatory agencies issuing such authorizations.

The act further stipulates that (Rule 28.2) as part of their regular mandates, the Local Government Units (LGUs) shall issue business permits to food business operators (FBOs) indicating compliance with the sanitation code and such other food safety requirements that may be prescribed. Such permit authorizes FBOs to market their products within their territorial jurisdiction.

During the meeting, Dr. Alex Templonuevo, NMIS Regional Director reported the efforts of the NMIS in providing modernized meat inspection service to protect the consuming public while promoting the livestock and poultry sector to ensure adequate supply of meat. On October 16, the NMIS Region 5 celebrated its 51 years of dedicated service with the theme: Safe Meat Healthy Nation.

The meeting was also attended by Lorenzo L. Alvina, Chief of the Integrated Laboratories Division and the Agricultural Program Coordinating Officers of the six provinces of Bicol. (Lovella P. Guarin | photo credit: Raymond Adversario)