A project has started to strengthen official food safety control and risk communication systems in five countries of Europe and Central Asia.

The effort, funded by Turkey, includes Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, the Republic of Moldova, Tajikistan and Turkey. It will include regional capacity development events and country-level activities.

In recent years, these nations have taken steps to improve their food control structures to cover all stages of food production and processing from farm-to-table.

However, systems of the countries are at different stages of development, so the project will focus on specific country needs and several common challenges from a regional perspective, according to officials.

Effective food safety and quality control systems are key to safeguard the health and well-being of people and to improve livelihoods by promoting access to wider markets.

The project will help the sharing of knowledge and experiences among the countries, that can also benefit from Turkish expertise.

Work falls under the jurisdiction of the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) partnership program with Turkey on food and agriculture.

Fruit and vegetable safety in Kyrgyzstan
Meanwhile, another FAO project involves Kyrgyzstan and improving food safety management in the country’s fruit and vegetable sector.

The work is funded by a $570,000 contribution from the Standards and Trade Development Facility (STDF) and will support implementation of modern risk-based food safety management systems in fruit and vegetable production and processing. This will help local producers ensure safety of their products, and increase access to domestic and international markets, mainly members of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), which the Kyrgyz Republic joined in August 2015.

Adnan Quereshi, FAO representative in Kyrgyzstan, said: “The project will have a positive impact on development of the fruit and vegetable sector and will provide an impetus to increase sales of Kyrgyz fruit and vegetables, which will ultimately lead to an increase in the profitability of small farms and processors in connection with the improvement of the fruit and vegetable industry.”

The Ministry of Agriculture, Food Industry and Melioration and Association of Fruit and Vegetable Enterprises (AFVE) are also involved in the project, which runs until the end of 2022.

In a December 2020 virtual inception workshop organized by FAO, Dilbara Alimzhanova, AFVE director, said that producers are facing difficulties in accessing domestic and export markets because of non-compliance with food safety requirements. Reasons for this include limited financial and technical capacities, lack of technical expertise and guidance, and outdated inspection systems.

Mary Kenny, FAO food safety and consumer protection officer, said technical knowledge of authority staff on doing risk-based inspection and analysis and revising audit procedures will be improved.

“Within the framework of this project, a standardized training system will be created to build capacities on internationally accepted risk-based food safety management systems including Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP), Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), Good Hygiene Practices (GHP) and Good Agricultural Practices (GAP).”

Finally, late this past year, a final meeting was held as part of the FAO project on technical support to the Azerbaijan Food Safety Agency (AFSA) with institutional reform and management.

The online seminar discussed the project, which ran in 2019 and 2020. Elkhan Mikayilov, chairman of the AFSA, said the agency is benefiting from the FAO’s experience and is looking at the principle of a risk-based approach.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)