By: John Maico Hernandez

Gearing towards enterprise improvement, safe food production and compliance to RA 10611 otherwise known as Food Safety Act of 2013, Cooperatives, MSMEs and other Food Manufacturing businesses partake in the DOST Batangas and Provincial Cooperative, Livelihood and Economic Development Office (PCLEDO) joint Forum on Securing Technical Requirements for Food and Drug Administration (FDA) License to Operate (LTO) and Certificate of Product Registration (CPR) in celebration of the National Cooperative’s Month held at PCLEDO Conference Room, Prov’l Capitol Cmpnd., Batangas City, Oct. 13.

Cooperatives, MSMEs and other businesses engaged in food manufacturing are at serious locus in this era where unsafe food poses global health threats, endangering everyone. The Philippines is one among the world facing critical challenges to ensure food safety and nutrition in the decades to come. This is the reason why businesses involved in the importation, exportation, trading, and distribution of food, drinks, drugs, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, or medical devices in the country are being required to comply with RA 10611 or the Food Safety Act of 2013.

The Food Safety Act of 2013 was promulgated to strengthen the food safety regulation in the country to protect consumer health and facilitate market access of local foods and food products. Food safety as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) is a scientific discipline describing handling, preparation, and storage of food in ways that prevent foodborne illness. This includes a number of routines that should be followed to avoid potential health hazards. Food can become contaminated at any point during production, distribution and preparation. Everyone along the production chain, from producer to consumer, has a role to play to ensure the food we eat does not cause diseases. This food chain is made up of a highly complex food production and consumption network that presents challenges which go far beyond immediate food and safety concerns. WHO on October 2017 reveals that 1 in 10 people fall ill every year from eating contaminated food and 420,000 people die each year as a result. Children under 5 years of age are at particular high risk, with some 125,000 young children dying from foodborne diseases every year. However, proper food preparation is the key to prevent most foodborne diseases.

Food Safety is one of the primary concerns of DOST CALABARZON and it has established a regionwide program to uplift the awareness of the public on food safety regulations by both local and international regulatory bodies, especially the food manufacturing sectors. Since food safety considerations include the origins of food including the practices relating to food labeling, food hygiene, food additives and pesticide residues, as well as policies on biotechnology and food and guidelines for the management of governmental import and export inspection and certification systems for foods, DOST also extends its assistance to acquisition of necessary licenses to ensure food safety among food manufacturing business specifically the FDA LTO and CPR. DOST Batangas sees the relevance of this to Cooperatives, MSMEs and other businesses engaged in food manufacturing who do not have these certifications yet. Subsequently, to maintain a farm to fork food safety regulatory system that ensures a high level of food safety, promotes fair trade and advances the global competitiveness of Batangas foods and food products, forum on securing these technical requirements has been pursued.

Ms. Caroline C. Duller, Food-Drug Regulation Officer III and Ms. Mary Joy I. Pauline, Food-Drug Regulation Officer II, both from FDA, were the speakers of the forum who discussed about the new procedures necessary for obtaining the certificates, the policies and requirements they instigate during application, practices relating to food labeling, food hygiene, food additives and all other technical requirements.

With the strict implementation of Food Safety Act, FDA improved their effectiveness and efficiency in carrying out its mandate through harmonizing, unifying and streamlining their processes and licensing requirements. The agency released Circular No. 2016-004 for the Procedure on the Use of the New Application Form for License to Operate (LTO) can be accessed in the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Electronic Portal (e-portal). This, however, was also discussed during the forum.

The speakers also extend their willingness to help the participants with their product market entry in obtaining the proper licensing and ensuring legal compliance for importation, exportation, and distribution of the product in and out of the Philippines. DOST Batangas and PCLEDO, on the other hand, also expressed their commitment to assist the participants in their application.