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FAO to support Health Ministry to enhance food safety policy through EU-funded project

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The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) through the European Union (EU)-funded BESPA-FOOD (Best Standardized Practices for the Agri-Food Sector) project will support the government to establish a well-coordinated food safety system in the country. Through the 6.5 million Euro project, FAO will work closely with the Ministry of Health to implement institutional revisions in the country’s food safety policy and regulatory framework towards adopting preventive, risk-based measures across the supply chain.

The current food safety regulatory policies in Sri Lanka focuses largely on end-product checks and regulations. Governed by a regulatory framework established in 1980, the challenges facing Sri Lanka’s food safety sector include weak regulatory and institutional frameworks that have led to vulnerabilities in supply chains, and infrastructure as well as an approach that does not consider every aspect of the food supply chain from farm-to-table.

To respond to these gaps, FAO will also work with the Ministries related to agriculture, livestock development, and fisheries sectors, as well as other agri and food sector stakeholders including private enterprises, SMEs, and consumers to achieve a complete transformation of food safety standards in the country via institutional as well as attitudinal shifts.

“Food safety requires a collaborative effort. That is why in Sri Lanka we work together with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), FAO and local partners to promote a transition to a sustainable and fair food system that can provide sufficient and safe food for all,” Chargé d’affaires, Delegation of the European Union in Sri Lanka Lars Bredal said.

“Ensuring safe food for all Sri Lankans is not only a public health priority but also an economic necessity. We must continue to strengthen our capacity for food safety, invest in research and innovation, and prioritize consumer awareness and education. At FAO, we remain committed to working closely with our partners to achieve a food-secure and safe Sri Lanka,” FAO Representative for Sri Lanka and the Maldives Vimlendra Sharan said.

BESPA-FOOD, which is jointly implemented by FAO and UNIDO, and funded by the EU, recognizes that current levels of poor food safety standards not only impacts public health but also hampers Sri Lanka’s potential in international trade, particularly when trading with regions where markets are highly regulated. Strengthening the food safety sector will not only alleviate the high cost of healthcare services but also create a resilient and competitive food industry in both domestic and international markets, and combat the issue of food loss and waste, thereby contributing to overall food security in the country.

A recent study by UNIDO revealed that an improvement in food safety practices in Sri Lanka through a 30 million USD investment and an annual net budgetary commitment of 9 million could prevent at least 113 deaths annually and significantly boost annual export values, projected to increase by 24% over a decade.

On this World Food Safety Day, the EU, UNIDO and FAO reaffirms commitment to enhancing food safety in Sri Lanka through the BESPA-FOOD project. This collaborative effort aims to create a safer, more resilient, and economically vibrant food sector, ensuring the well-being and sustainable development of the country and its people.

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