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Govt to research food safety

Imported milk products sit at a market stall in Phnom Penh
Imported milk products sit at a market stall in Phnom Penh last week. The government is moving forward with plans to draft a food-safety law that could be finished in March. Eli Meixler

Govt to research food safety

The Cambodian government will start gathering data before beginning to draft a long-awaited food law before the end of the year, officials confirmed yesterday.

The law, which has been in the works since 2004, aims to regulate food safety and quality in Cambodia and put the country on par with international standards set by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The news came after an inter-ministry workshop on Saturday led by the Ministry of Commerce (MoC).

“The food law will protect the safety of consumer from any dangers caused by foods,” said Commerce Ministry Secretary of State Tekret Kamrang in a release. “Unsafe foods will harm the consumers’ health and the victims will [lose] money as well as time on medical treatment.”

According to the FAO, food safety has long been a problem in Cambodia. The country implemented standards on food safety management in 2000, but they are not all considered mandatory.

“We need to implement standard food measures across the board but there is a huge lack of food data in Cambodia so it’s very important that we get that so we’re properly informed,” said Dim Theng, lab director at CamControl, one of the ministry’s departments leading the research.

Apart from a lack of research, one of Cambodia’s other challenges is achieving inter-ministerial coordination in implementing food measures.

“Food control activities are being implemented by different ministries and departments in a piecemeal manner and with little coordination and communication between ministries, departments and stakeholders,” FAO senior food safety and nutrition officer Shashi Sareen wrote in an email.

Theng said that this is one of the issues the drafting committee plans to tackle as they write the upcoming food law.

“We have several ministries assigned on different aspects of food safety implementation but we need a better mechanism and we need to clearly identify responsibilities,” he said, adding that they aim to finish the draft by March and implement it by the end of next year.