The mission of the ASEAN Food Safety Network is to “establish and maintain a safe working environment for food supply management and foster the cooperation between ASEAN Member States in order to raise the standards of health and hygiene in relation to the management of food safety.” It aims to achieve this by promoting greater awareness and vigilance regarding health risks, preventative measures and prevention strategies among ASEAN member states. In addition, it works with ASEAN governments to develop food safety laws and regulations, provide capacity building programs, and facilitate scientific research in food safety.
Of particular note, is the fact that the ASEAN Food Safety Network provides a platform for Member States to exchange information on emerging challenges as well as best practices related to food safety. This helps to ensure that all parties involved, from local farmers to global distribution networks are aware of possible hazards and can work together to tackle any challenges at hand. The Network also focuses on strengthening communication lines within the region so that when an issue arises it can be dealt with swiftly by all Member States.
By providing this platform for coordination and exchange of knowledge, the ASEAN Food Safety Network seeks to strengthen existing food protection systems across its Member States. It also seeks to promote innovation in food safety research and practice by providing a platform for scientists from different disciplines and sectors (agriculture, public health, policy makers etc.) to brainstorm ideas and work towards solutions. By doing so, it will help create a healthier lifestyle for everyone in Southeast Asia.
The implementation of this network has been supported by numerous agencies including the World Health Organization (WHO), FAO Regional Office for Asia-Pacific Region and other regional organizations such as SAARC, ACFTA and OBOR. All of these stakeholders are committed towards improving the food safety systems in the region and this project is one big step towards achieving their goals.
This week, a landmark agreement was signed among ASEAN member states: the ASEAN Food Safety Network. This network is a major step forward to ensure the safety of food and beverages in the region, which is home to some of the most diverse and complex food cultures in the world.
The ASEAN Food Safety Network (AFSN) is designed to foster collaboration between countries and allow them to share information regarding food safety issues in ASEAN countries. It will also allow countries to set up food safety standards and protocols, which are necessary for safe trade and export of food products.
The objective of the AFSN is to create an integrated region-wide system that monitors key safety issues, coordinates risk assessment and communication on food safety across borders while maintaining consumer safety as top priority. The AFSN will also promote capacity building and enhance cooperation among Southeast Asian nations on food safety issues like traceability, harmonization and mutual recognition.
The establishment of the AFSN is seen as a positive accomplishment for both consumer health and food producers in the region as it will offer regional integration for greater market access for exporters, promote regional co-operation among regulatory authorities whilst providing open access for consumers to quality and safe foods anywhere in Southeast Asia.
Additionally, the recent agreement allows countries to work together in strategies to reduce crop loss from pests, diseases and poor post-harvest management — what could lead to significant economic benefits in several countries whose economies are dependent on agricultural production.
Finally, effective implementation requires collective commitment and involvement of related stakeholders such as opposition parties, religious groups, economic actors etc. This is especially true since there are cultural differences across the region in terms of diet preference and available resources, which can be a source of contention when trying to set and enforce agreed-upon standards.
In sum, while much work remains to be done in developing proper mechanisms within the network, discussions have begun between countries in order to implement strategies that benefit both consumers and producers alike. The AFSN marks an important step forward for both regional cooperation as well as food safety standards across Southeast Asia.