Safety first: Three-day food safety training course at the KU

Food importers want the food to be free of pathogens, toxins and pollutants.

Express August 08, 2011

KARACHI: A three-day food safety training course was held at the University of Karachi, the objective of the course was to train Pakistanis about food safety and quality control.

The course aimed to enable them to provide safer, more wholesome food to the people of Pakistan as well as to permit Pakistani food products to be exported to high value international markets in compliance with World Trade Organisation (WTO) regulations and international trade requirements.

The training course titled ‘Good Manufacturing Practices and Sanitation Standard Operating Procedures and Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP)’, and it was held, from August 6 to 8, at Latif Ebrahim Jamal Auditorium and was jointly organised by University of Karachi and Pakistan Society for Microbiology.

The programme not only attracted scientists, academicians, students and supervisors from government agencies such as Pakistan Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, Pakistan Agricultural Research Council but also several food quality control and safety experts from various companies and organisations. They all had the same concern - Pakistan lags behind in good manufacturing practices for food. And due to this inability to meet WTO requirements dozens of our trade consignments are rejected at different ports, this has caused huge economic losses.

Due to global needs for food supply, new food safety challenges have emerged, and importing countries are heavily concerned about the safety of food, especially seafood. They want the food to be free of serious pathogens, pesticides, drug residues, food additives, environmental toxins and organic pollutants explained the Pro-Vice Chancellor of University of Karachi, Prof. Dr Shahana Urooj Kazmi, at the inaugural session.

She said that ensuring food safety at all levels is very important for human, animal and plant health because food-borne contaminants have proved to be a cause of illness. “The food manufacturers should have knowledge about good manufacturing and agricultural practices, starting from the farm to the factory, meal table and export houses” said Kazmi.

While focusing on Pakistan, Kazmi warned against excessive use of pesticides in crop fields and the intentional mixing of toxic chemicals such as melamine in baby milk and carcinogenic drugs in animal feed. In regards to quality control she said that we need to improve on our critical control point monitoring systems. “They are not fully developed in Pakistan, we therefore face problems in implementing sanitary guidelines to meet WTO requirements” she said. She also emphasised the need for creating general awareness and organising training courses for food scientists. Washington State University’s Prof. Dr Barbara Rasco was the instructor for this course, she highlighted the international standards required to ensure that food was processed under standard sanitary conditions.

“Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points is based on establishing critical control limits, monitoring procedures, taking corrective measures, verification and record keeping. All this must be implemented properly paired with good manufacturing practices,” she said.

After the inaugural session many interactive scientific sessions were held. These topics were discussed by Prof. Gleyn and Prof. Barbara, assisted by University of Karachi’s Nain Tara from and Ambreen Ansari.

This  capacity building  programme for academia and industry representatives  has been developed  under the Trilateral  Commission’s Trade Corridors Working Group consisting of  Pakistan, USA  and  USDA - Foreign Agriculture Service. The funding for the training courses has been provided by the US Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service. The companies which attended included National Foods, Young’s Food, Agro Processors and Atmospheric Gases, English Biscuit Mfrs, Domino’s Pizza-Pakistan, Hilal Confectionary, the Bhombal Group and PIA Flight Kitchen.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 9th, 2011.

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