Address by the Regional Director at the CCASIA Meeting

26-30 September 2016, New Delhi, India

Excellencies, dignitaries on the dais, distinguished participants, ladies and gentlemen,

The international food trade is a 1.5 trillion dollar a year industry responsible for the production, marketing and transport of billions of tons of food. It is a trade that has escalated tremendously over the last decade, with the food chain today extending over thousands of kilometers and containing many steps from production to consumption.

An error by a food producer in one country can affect consumers on the other side of the planet, impacting health, international relations and trade. Harmonization of food quality and safety standards that are science-based and uniformly accepted is therefore essential.

In the South-East Asia Region Food Borne Diseases (FBDs) are of significant concern. Based on data from 2010, the annual burden includes more than 150 million illnesses and 175 000 deaths, making our Region the second most-affected on a per capita basis among WHO regions.

FBD surveillance and food safety – both core capacities under the International Health Regulations – is vital to obtain a clearer picture of unique local challenges and to map-out implementation strategies aimed at combating the problem.

Alongside FBD-related concerns, the misuse and overuse of antibiotics, responsible for the rise of anti-microbial resistance (AMR), demands attention. The use of antimicrobials in farm animals for disease treatment, growth promotion and to improve feed efficiency plays a major role in the emergence of antimicrobial-resistant bacteria.

AMR’s public health implications are many. It is already limiting the efficacy of standard treatments, leading to the death of an estimated 700 000 people across the world each year. It is likewise threatening infectious disease control, causing the re-emergence of some pathogens and/or increasing their virulence. And it is also making medical treatments more costly.

In our efforts to overcome these and other challenges, Codex is fundamental. For more than 50 years Codex has played a key role internationally in the area of food standards, and has fulfilled its dual mandate of protecting the health of consumers and ensuring fair practices in the food trade.

As the 70th session of the Codex Executive Committee and the 38th session of Codex Alimentarius Commission agreed, FAO and WHO, together with the Codex Secretariat, will proceed to revitalize our Regional Coordinating Committees in all regions, including in Asia.

I take this opportunity to thank the Government of India for hosting the 20th meeting of the Codex Committee for Asia in New Delhi, and for facilitating this process.

Ladies and gentlemen,

National Codex Committees (NCC) in Member States continue to play an important role in promoting multisectoral coordination and collaboration for food safety, and in providing national input to the Codex standard development process at regional and global levels. It is unfortunate that some countries in the Region still have a weak National Codex structure, with the NCC failing to function as per Codex guidelines.

The diagnostic tool for assessment of the National Codex Committee, developed by the Codex Trust Fund, may help us better understand the functional status of Codex Committees and Codex activities. FAO and WHO are working together to establish a functional NCC through high-level advocacy meetings and in-country activities.

Over the next five days you will deliberate on proposed regional Codex standards and will be exposed to a range of ideas on how to deal with critical and emerging challenges in food safety and implementation of Codex standards in Asia. I wish you fruitful deliberations and a successful meeting.

Thank you very much.