First regional food safety workshop held in Singapore

SINGAPORE - A total of 22 countries will be represented at the three-day workshop, organised by the NEA and the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations. At the opening of the event, National Environment Agency (NEA) chief Ronnie Tay announced his hopes that an Asian Street Food Network could be formed to promote the learning and sharing of hygienic practices by street vendors in the region.

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Here is the full statement from the NEA:

42 representatives from 22 member countries of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) in the Asia and Pacific Region, will gather from 12 to 14 September 2013 to collectively work on bringing about safer food for the region. The inaugural FAO-NEA Regional Workshop for Asian Countries on Hygiene and Safety in Food Retail is the first such forum in this region that offers participants a comprehensive view of hygiene and safety in food retail, with a focus on street food and organised retail food. With the unique and vibrant street food scene in the region, this forum has been organised in recognition that regional countries must work together, to preserve their unique food culture whilst striving for high standards of food hygiene.

Over the next three days, the participants, comprising food safety experts and practitioners, will develop regional guidelines for the improved management of hygiene and safety in food retail. The guidelines will be used by countries in the implementation of their food safety programmes. In addition, the workshop will see the establishment of an Asian Street Food Network that aims to facilitate the surveillance and sharing of best practices in hygiene and safety in food retail, and support future regional collaborations and exchanges. Singapore's experience in resettling its street vendors into hawker centres to achieve better public health standards, together with success stories from other countries, will be drawn upon in the development of these guidelines.

The participants will also be visiting an NTUC Fairprice supermarket to experience an actual retail setting in Singapore, as well as Changi Village Hawker Centre where they will be introduced to Singapore's unique street food culture over dinner.

Mr Hiroyuki Konuma, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific said, "Food safety has gained in importance across Asia, because it contributes to food security by reducing food-borne diseases and by promoting agricultural trade. FAO has long made food quality and safety a priority area of its work. The Organisation works with member countries to enhance their capacity to design animal health and food-safety standards and to strengthen legal and institutional frameworks that govern food safety and qualitythroughout the food chain."

Mr Ronnie Tay, NEA Chief Executive Officer said, "We are happy to partner FAO to organise this inaugural workshop on hygiene and safety in food retail. I am confident that the workshop will produce the regional guidelines that work towards improved management of hygiene and safety in food retail in the region. I also look forward to seeing the establishment of a regional Asian Street Food Network among member countries participating at today's workshop, which will be a useful regional platform for surveillance, sharing of best practices and networking."