Unified GCC food tests on track
Manama, March 8, 2008
Unified guidelines for monitoring food quality in the GCC countries have been implemented on a trial basis, according to a top health official.
The move is a prelude to full implementation towards the end of the year, Health Ministry Public Health Directorate food control head Dr Abdulla Ahmed told the Gulf Daily News, our sister publication.
'Representatives of health ministries from the region had concluded a final round of discussions last year when the final draft was sent to the World Health Organisation (WHO) for approval,' said Dr Ahmed.
'The guidelines that had then been finalised have now received WHO approval after which the trial implementation has begun.'
He said according to the plan, once a harmful substance is found in any foodstuff by a GCC state, the member states would be informed immediately through a computerised network.
'This process has some glitches and teething problems which would be ironed out before full implementation,' said Dr Ahmed.
He said the measure is expected to coincide with the unification of GCC customs procedures.
Dr Ahmed said the main glitch expected to come their way is that several GCC countries share their borders with other non-GCC countries.
'There are also some countries which have decided to implement certain clauses suggested by Western nations. This has now been streamlined,' he said.
Dr Ahmed said the GCC has set up a 'risk assessment unit', which is charged with collecting foodstuff samples coming to the region.
He said over the past few decades the issue of food safety has been in the public eye and said a chronology of food scares all over the region has resulted in severely damaged consumer confidence.
'We have a duty to ensure it should not happen and we hope with these new measures, consumer confidence will be restored,' said Dr Ahmed.
He said in the past the emphasis of food control systems was placed on the stimulation of trade and commerce.
'More recently that balance has moved to ensuring food is safe and consumers' interests are protected,' said Dr Ahmed.-TradeArabia News Service