ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
Harmonisation of food standards to promote ASEAN trade
ASEAN’s harmonisation of food standards should not deter less developed countries from competing in the intra-ASEAN food trade, a representative from the ASEAN Food and Beverage Alliance said recently.
“ASEAN has the foresight that allows these less developed countries to come up to the level of more developed ASEAN nations by providing capacity development to these countries,” said Dr Siti N Abdul Malek, director at the AFBA secretariat.
The AFBA is a non-profit body comprising of national associations in Southeast Asia that are involved in the manufacturing, distribution and sale of food and beverage products which aims for regional representation of the industry. The organisation is working to harmonise regional standards in food trade through common measures and mutual recognition.
Dr Siti said the harmonisation efforts being done in ASEAN is based on Codex Alimentarius, or Codex, the international standards developed by the World Health Organisation and the Food and Agriculture Organisation.
She said these standards are the benchmarked minimum that had been deliberated by around 187 member countries.
“So these standards can be complied by many countries,” she said.
ASEAN at the present time have many differing regulatory requirements when it comes to food.
“What we see is that more developed countries would have more strict standards,” she said.
Dr Siti said developed countries with more resources are more capable of having a higher standard because they can prove that the products that are being sold in their market can meet those requirements.
She said adapting the CODEX requirements will level the playing field for all ASEAN countries and promote international trade.
“Just because a country has sophisticated equipment that can measure up to parts per trillion, does that mean they should put it in their standards?
While you can, it is impossible for others to follow because they don’t have that level of sophistication,” she said.
“Codex looks into that scenario for the average and should be adopted instead because it is the global food standard. It will facilitate international trade much better,” Dr Siti said.
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