WTO joins FAO, WHO, OIE on food safety through trade, cooperation

Source: Xinhua| 2019-04-24 05:02:46|Editor: yan
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GENEVA, April 23 (Xinhua) -- WTO rules on food safety play an important part in enabling governments to protect their citizens while ensuring trade can play a critical role in maintaining supplies of safe food, said WTO chief Roberto Azevedo on Tuesday.

The WTO director-general was opening the International Forum on Food Safety and Trade at the organization's headquarters here on April 23-24.

"Access to safe food is essential. It is a central element of public health and will be crucial in achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)," said Azevedo.

Therefore, he was pleased to spotlight the issue, "and to consider the interlinkages between food, health and trade policies which will help to deliver this shared goal."

Azevedo was joined by World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva and World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) Director-General Monique Eloit.

Together they called for renewed international cooperation to exploit the power of digitalization, facilitate trade and address food safety in the future.

"We must consider how to take advantage of the opportunities brought by technological progress in upholding our goals of food safety and public health," said Azevedo.

"We have to be prepared -- and that requires informed debate. This is exactly the kind of exchange that today's event is trying to promote," he said.

Azevedo cited WTO agreements and programs such as the sanitary and phytosanitary agreement, the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade and the Standards and Trade Development Facility as important to the multilateral trading system, ensuring the supply of safe food.

Speaking for the FAO, da Silva noted the pivotal role that trade rules and regulations to the food supply chain, particularly when new health issues such as obesity become a global challenge.

"The international trade and the high consumption of ultra-processed food is a great concern that must be addressed properly, based on the fact that obesity is a public health issue and not merely a consequence of individual choices," he said.

The WHO director-general called for more work to promote the harmonization of food safety policy and regulations across sectors and borders in order to protect consumers' health and facilitate fair practices in food trade.

"There is no such thing as food safety for the rich and another for the poor. The health of all people, no matter where they live and what they eat, must be protected equally.

"Food safety crosses national borders. Food produced in one country today can, within 24 hours, be on the other side of the planet and on its way to shops, restaurants and homes," he said.