By: Rochelle L. Cruz

As part of the partnership of Department of Science and Technology (DOST) with Nanyang Polytechnic International (NYPi) and Temasek Foundation Inc. (TF) in training the officials and staff on food safety and technology from 2016 to 2017, an implementation/training review was conducted last October 23 at the Crimson Hotel, Alabang, Muntinlupa City. The six agencies (DOST-PCIEERD, DOST-ITDI, DOST-FNRI, DOST Regional Offices, DOH, FDA) which participated in the seminar-training presented their outcomes on how they were able to cascade their learnings as well as how they addressed the food safety issues and concerns in their locale.

Dr. Alexander Madrigal, DOST-CALABARZON Regional Director, formally welcomed the participants in the implementation review. On the other hand, DOST-ROS Undersecretary Brenda Nazareth-Manzano, in her opening remarks, encouraged to apply their learning to create more opportunities in enhancing food safety in our country.

A short message from the NYPi and TF then followed. Dr. Gang Heng Hui and Ms. Judy Emily from NYPi were very excited to hear the results of the training from the different agencies. Mr. James Chan of TF expressed his gratitude in this project and looks forward to the outcomes of this partnership.

DOH-NCR Assistant Regional Director Corazon Flores, M.D., MPH, CESO IV, presented the outcomes for DOH. Different advocacy activities such as Advocacy Forum on Food Safety, Regional Sanitation Summit, Water Quality and Food Safety Awareness were conducted to increase the awareness of the participants in food safety. Aside from these activities, the DOH created a Regional Water and Food Safety Committee to aid in the implementation of the Philippine Food Safety Act down to the LGU level. Trainings and orientation on food sanitation and hygiene practices for school canteen operators, sanitation inspectors, and food handlers were also done to level up their competence in their business through knowing the importance of food sanitation and hygiene as well as their responsibilities to provide clean and safe food to their customers. In terms of monitoring, microbiological and physical chemical analysis and ocular inspections are done regularly in food establishments to ensure that the food is safe from any contamination. The DOH Regional Office III also conducted a pioneer study on development of Food Safety Program for street food vendors.

For the outcomes of PCIEERD, Engr. Niñaliza Escorial, Division Chief, shared their action plan to harness food safety by supporting the harmonization of food safety training modules, updating the food safety roadmap and action plans in collaboration with other government agencies, and monitoring of program’s outputs. To cascade their learnings from the training in Singapore, Engr. Escorial led the discussion on food safety during the ‘Usapang’ PCIEERD. It is a monthly activity of the agency to disseminate information to its employees. PCIEERD also led the development of the DOST program on food safety. They conducted workshops to create a food safety strategy map in order to harness science, technology, and innovation to ensure safe food for all. Other activities such as call for proposals and talks on food safety during the NSTW were done to contribute in their action plan.

ITDI Division Chief Engr. Norbert Ambagan presented their outcomes which focused on conducting awareness and echo seminar on food safety to students, LGU members, and food industry staff. Aside from the seminars, ITDI upgraded their facility and training modules, held a capacity building on advanced food analysis and food safety, conducted R&D on safety of processed food, and strengthening their food safety team.

The highlights of the projects related to Food Quality and Safety R&D Technology were presented by Dr. Mario Capanzana, FNRI Director. Some of the impacts include increased capability for innovative, cost-effective and science-based technology and services, improved nutritional status of the populace in Mindanao through consumption of quality and safe iron fortified rice, and enhanced national capability to evaluate food safety risks from chemical hazards. Echo seminars inside and outside the institute were also done to cascade their learning from the training program. Moreover, FNRI became the front runner of the integrated food safety R&D sub-program which includes the integrated food safety research and development program, enhancement testing capabilities on food safety, human resource development program on food safety, and technology transfer and policy advocacy program on food safety.

DOST XI Regional Director Dr. Anthony Sales reported the FST services being done in the regional offices such as training on GMP, HACCP, FSMS; plant layout design consultancy; pre-assessment for certification; preparation of manuals; and other technical consultancy. There were a total of 497 trainings with 14,720 participants conducted nationwide as part of cascading the learnings from the training. DOST also assisted MSMEs to obtain FDA License to Operate (LTO) as well as integrated halal to food safety. Regional Food Safety Committees/Regulatory Coordinating Board were also created to have a team focusing on cascading about food safety in their regions.

The last to present their outcomes is Mr. Andrew Delos Angeles, Food-Drug Regulation Officer III, of FDA. One of the highlights of their cascading activities is tapping the food safety agencies (DOH, DA, DOLG, DOST) to enhance regulatory enforcement. They also utilized the DOST One Lab Network and involved the LGUs in enforcing food safety regulations. Apart from this, FDA also enhanced compliance of food establishments to food safety regulations by practicing food safety laws and standards, good manufacturing practices, and licensing and food registration requirements. A total of 2,120 participants complied in this regulation nationwide. They also enhanced their post market surveillance to strengthen their enforcement. Finally, they established a food safety network to enhance the capability on assuring compliance to current trade practices.

In their final remarks, Dr. Gan was happy and surprised to know that within a short period of time the agencies were able to successfully cascade what they learned in Singapore. She also reminded the agencies to close the gaps that have been identified in their presentations. Ms. Emily commended the effort in harmonizing the activities to avoid duplication of work. She encouraged them to find strength in collaborations with different industries and LGUs. Mr. Chan was glad of the results of their partnership with NYPi and TF.

With this journey coming to end, their roles in addressing food safety in our country still continues. Everyone must come hand-in-hand as “food safety is a shared responsibility”.