ITALY – The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has introduced a practical and accessible toolbox to assist stakeholders in the food sector in adhering to international food hygiene standards. 

Released on World Food Safety Day 2023, the toolbox is built upon the Codex Alimentarius, a comprehensive collection of guidelines and codes managed by FAO and the World Health Organization (WHO) to safeguard consumer health and promote fair practices in food trade.

The newly launched toolbox serves as a user-friendly platform that translates the extensive set of Good Hygiene Practices (GHP) and Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) guidelines into easily digestible information. 

Recognizing the challenges faced by small food businesses and producers in low- and middle-income countries, special attention has been given to ensuring the toolbox’s accessibility. 

The website is designed to be compatible with handheld mobile devices, which are more prevalent than computers in many developing nations.

The primary objective of the toolbox is to equip all food business operators, irrespective of their location or size along the value chain, with a tool that enables them to collaborate effectively with local food safety authorities. 

“This toolbox is an important point of reference for food safety globally.

“It provides not only the internationally agreed upon principles of food safety but also sets a common language, which in turn provides a framework and a commonality within which countries can negotiate and food businesses can communicate on food safety amongst themselves,” said Corinna Hawkes, FAO’s Director of Food Systems and Food Safety Division.

By providing a common language and framework, the toolbox facilitates improved engagement among food businesses, aiding in the production, processing, and distribution of safe food. 

Moreover, the toolbox caters to various stakeholders, including government officials, academia, and capacity-building organizations.

Academia has already expressed interest in utilizing the toolbox as a foundation for dedicated food safety courses.

Promoting global food safety

FAO places great importance on ensuring food safety, particularly in situations of food scarcity that pose increased threats to consumers. 

With an estimated 600 million people affected by foodborne illnesses annually, FAO supports its member countries in enhancing food safety through the provision of scientific advice for Codex Alimentarius standards. 

Furthermore, FAO assists in the implementation of these standards, aiding in the development of legislative frameworks and capacity-building initiatives to safeguard food safety.

The technical content of the toolbox was collaboratively developed and reviewed by FAO Food Safety Officers and a team from the Department of Food Science at the University of Guelph in Canada

The demand for improved accessibility to Codex guidance from member countries drove the creation of this toolbox. 

Currently available in English, French, and Spanish, the toolbox aims to gather feedback for future enhancements and potentially extend its guidance to other sectors of the agrifood system, such as fisheries.

In a separate development, FAO and WHO have partnered with national governments and private stakeholders to launch a global campaign to combat foodborne illnesses. 

The campaign aims to raise awareness, promote best practices, and foster collaboration among all actors in the food chain to ensure safe food for all. 

This initiative aligns with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, particularly Goal 2 of zero hunger and Goal 3 of good health and well-being.

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