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NA expert commission backs bill on food safety

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A woman sells meals at Kandal market in Phnom Penh’s Daun Penh district. Heng Chivoan

NA expert commission backs bill on food safety

An upcoming food safety law is expected to provide a major boost to the Cambodian food industry and leverage its potential to attract foreign investors and travellers to the Kingdom, according to local food and tourism experts.

On April 25, a Ministry of Commerce delegation led by minister Pan Sorasak presented the draft law to an expert commission at the National Assembly (NA), all members of which voiced support for the bill. The document will now be sent to the NA for a vote at a later date.

The draft law was unanimously approved by the Council of Ministers on April 1, according to government spokesman Phay Siphan.

Cambodia Chefs Society (CCS) president Song Teng told The Post on April 26 that once enacted, the law would considerably improve the Kingdom’s gastronomic reputation and instil confidence in foreign travellers entertaining a visit.

A food sector with clearly-defined quality standards that has garnered the trust of consumers and other stakeholders would not only improve the wellbeing of Cambodians, but also woo foreign businesses into investing in food production for export, he said.

“When this law comes into force, I believe it will bring a lot of benefits to the Cambodian economy, especially by improving the quality of hygiene [practices] and attracting foreigners to Cambodia who wouldn’t have to be anxious while eating,” Teng said.

He affirmed that the local food supply landscape has vastly improved over time in terms of hygiene and quality control, pricing, and the ability of the chefs.

Teng said chefs earn from $150-4,000 a month depending on experience and certifications, with most at restaurants and hotels having trained at professional schools.

He underscored that for the food sector to grow rapidly, it would necessary for Cambodians to “spread the word all together”.

“I urge the government leadership as well as all Cambodians to be more involved in dissemination, and driving the Cambodian chef and food industry, as Khmer food is diverse and delicious,” he said.

Cambodian Tourism Federation president Luu Meng agreed with Teng, saying that the law would build confidence among foreign investors and tourists concerning food safety, convincing them to take a trip to Cambodia, and thereby spur economic growth as the Kingdom transitions to endemic management of Covid-19.

The law would help put Cambodian cuisine on the international map, bolster food quality and safety, and establish training requirements for chefs, among other favourable effects, he said.

“This law will not only inspire confidence among locals and foreign visitors in the safety of Cambodian food, but also encourage investment in food production for export as well,” Meng said.

The commerce ministry has listed key benefits of the law as: a mechanism for the management of the operations of all entities within food production chains; basic requirements and standards for food quality and safety; and improved implementation approaches for sanitary and phytosanitary measures and technical barriers to trade for food products.

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