In continued efforts to build a strong and sustainable food safety culture, Mekong Institute (MI) and Lao PDR’s Food and Drug Department (FDD) of the Ministry of Health (MOH) rolled out the PROSAFE Forum on “Know Your Food Law” to raise awareness and ownership towards the country’s food safety policies and standards on March 9, 2021 in Crowne Plaza Hotel, Vientiane and via digital channels.
“Strong food legislation not only protects consumers’ health, it ensures that quality and wholesome food are consistently provided to the populace,” Mr. Suriyan Vichitlekarn, MI Executive Director, said during the opening session, before underscoring that food safety is a collective responsibility of all stakeholders in the agri-food supply chain.
Supported by the New Zealand Aid Programme (NZAP), the one-day forum was designed to increase public awareness of the country’s food law and its implementation, with focus on strengthening engagement of agri-food small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) for more inclusive national food safety control policy implementation.
Over the years, Lao PDR has had its share of foodborne illnesses and outbreaks due to limited awareness on food safety hazards and subsequent mishandling, contamination, and limited access to information. In response, the country’s government—with support from MI—has escalated capacity building initiatives of public officials and private agri-food businesses to safeguard public health and improve trust in the national food supply chain among Lao PDR’s consumers.
“The foundation for food safety is now in place. To make these laws work, we must deliver our responsibilities as government officials, business owners, and community leaders by understanding and adhering to these frameworks so we can truly build a sustainable food safety culture in Lao PDR,” said Dr. Viengxay Vansilalom, Deputy Director General of FDD at the MOH.
Pooling about 40 government and SME representatives from the country, the PROSAFE Forum also widened networks between public officials and business owners as they exchanged expertise towards a more inclusive agri-food supply chain in Lao PDR.
In addition, food safety experts and practitioners from MI, MOH, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Ministry of Industry and Commerce and an agri-food sector representative presented updated regulations and progress of initiatives, as well as available government- and MI-sponsored activities that are open to Lao PDR nationals interested in expanding their knowledge and participation in food safety control system. An officer from the International Trade Centre was also present and shared his multilateral agency’s support for Lao PDR on safe agriculture export.
The forum is the first of a series of PROSAFE multi-stakeholder activities planned for Lao PDR in 2021. With support from NZAP, MI’s PROSAFE project aims to strengthen agri-food safety capabilities of agri-food supply chain stakeholders in Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Vietnam (CLMV). Specifically, its goal is to promote food safety through a coordinated approach to knowledge and skills development. Apart from addressing country-identified training needs, the project also builds strong partnerships and collaboration between the public and the private sector.