Singapore held the fifth meeting of an international food safety network this past week.

The annual meeting of the International Heads of Food Agencies Forum (IHFAF) took place from April 16 to 20, under the theme “Food Safety for a Resilient and Sustainable World”.

Heads of food agencies from 17 countries and 22 organizations, including the World Health Organization (WHO), The U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and the Codex Alimentarius Commission, attended the event.

National perspectives
Dr. Hisham bin Saad Aljadhey, CEO of the Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA), headed the agency’s delegation. Aljadhey chaired two sessions on the safety assessment, regulatory frameworks, and risk communication for novel foods.

Other sessions covered topics such as climate resilience and safe food, sustainability and food safety, as well as discussing the activities of IHFAF.

SFDA officials held meetings with the Chilean Food Safety and Quality Agency (ACHIPIA), the New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), and the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR).

Posting on social media, Sandra Cuthbert, Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) CEO, said food systems are interconnected and working together was important.

“Sharing information between agency heads across the globe helps us all, and I am grateful for the strong collaboration and openness of everyone who joined. With thanks to the Singapore Food Agency for hosting this years’ forum. I’m already looking forward to seeing everyone again next year in Chile,” she said.

Gail Carroll, director of regulatory affairs and compliance, and Wayne Anderson, director of food science and standards, represented the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) at the forum, which was held in Ireland in 2023.

FSAI said IHFAF has been crucial in building its global network, learning from other countries, and sharing expertise and experience in ensuring swift and effective response to any potential emerging risks and threats to the food chain. 

BfR and SFA to cooperate
The Singapore Food Agency (SFA) and the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) signed a Joint Declaration of Intent (JDI) at the event to cooperate on emerging developments in food safety, research, and risk assessments.

“The topic of food safety is constantly growing and evolving. For us, this means that our research must also continuously expand and improve,” said Tanja Schwerdtle, vice president of the BfR.

Schwerdtle traveled to Singapore as part of the IHFAF meeting to sign the document with Tan Lee Kim, SFA’s director-general and deputy CEO.

“We are optimistic that this collaboration can help to strengthen food safety science and risk assessment in both countries,” said Tan Lee Kim.

A multi-year work plan was defined, which covers cooperation in various subject areas to close research and data gaps as well as exchanging knowledge.

BfR and SFA scientists also discussed the safety of alternative proteins, emerging environmental contaminants affecting the food supply, food contact materials, and genetically modified food.

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