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Pacific Food System Outlook 2002-2003 - Making the Region's Food Supplies Safer



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Pacific Food System Outlook 2002-2003:
Making the Region's Food Supplies Safer


Strong consumer confidence in the safety of the food supply is crucial to build and maintain an efficient food system in Asia Pacific. In a  report issued by the Pacific Economic Cooperation Council (PECC), a supporter of the APEC process, food industry economists call for governments and the private sector to work together to maintain comprehensive databases on food-borne illnesses, support research to prevent contamination, harmonize science-based standards and practices to limit illnesses, and sponsor consumer education to ensure safe handling of food.

Uncertainty about food safety is the enemy of both rational behavior and business investment in the region's food systems, says Walter J. Armbruster, president of Farm Foundation and chairman of the Pacific Food System Outlook.  APEC member economies must promote the development of production systems and technologies that will prevent initial contamination, disinfect foods more effectively and detect pathogens and other disease causing food-borne agents more quickly.

Pacific Food System Outlook is a project of the Pacific Economic Cooperation Council (PECC), in collaboration with Farm Foundation and the Economic Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The report, Making the Region?s Food Supplies Safer, outlines how the combination of income growth and urbanization have led to increased consumption of perishable products, and a more complex and longer supply chain. This extends the time and distance from farms to markets or restaurants, and increases the potential for food contamination.

To ensure the safety of the food supply, APEC must generate more comprehensive data on the incidence and causes of food-borne illnesses, and share that information around the region. International cooperation is crucial because of the significant role of trade in disease outbreaks and other food safety issues, the analysts note. Better information should make the consumer response to food-borne illnesses more consistent with actual risks.

The economists also called for the public and private sectors to work cooperatively to harmonize science-based standards and implement practices aligned with the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) system in food processing and food service. Broad educational campaigns on safe food handling practices must be continued and expanded to all income groups, the analysts say.

The lack of consistent, comprehensive data makes it difficult to establish trends about the incidence of food-borne illness in the region. Most commonly involved in food-related disease outbreaks are processed foods, fresh horticultural products, and meats, foods that are enjoying increased popularity. Other widely recognized food safety risks include environmental toxins (e.g., lead and mercury), persistent organic pollutants (e.g. dioxin), and prions associated with "mad cow" disease.

Because of limited public resources and the strong private-sector incentives for promoting food safety, some APEC governments are implementing risk management systems that grant businesses flexibility in operational performance as long as required food safety outcomes are achieved. HACCP is mandatory in several APEC countries for certain perishable products, some of which are important to the export trade.

Pacific Economic Cooperation Council. Pacific Food System Outlook 2002-2003. Singapore: Pacific Economic Cooperation Council, October 2002. Online at

For more information on the Pacific Economic Cooperation Council visit their website at





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