“Better training for safer food”: An activity growing by the year

In 2009 the European Commission’s “Better training for safer food” initiative  organised 110 events involving 5 000 participants. These figures are given in the fourth annual report of this programme that aims to train Member State control staff and third party participants in the fields of health (food safety and veterinary aspects) and plant health. These figures are set to increase further for 2010. This growing interest is largely due to factors such as the food crises, increasing consumer awareness, the globalisation of trade in foodstuffs and the lack of harmonisation in implementing food legislation and official controls.

The initiative offers training on around 20 topics and such training has become obligatory for all Member States following the adoption of Regulation   882/2004 in April 2004. Nevertheless, the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) shows that produce that arrives from third countries does not always respect EU standards. As the European Union is the world’s biggest food importer it was deemed appropriate to define specific training programmes for third countries. 2009 was marked by the creation and launch of a programme specifically for Africa which attracted over 1 000 participants to its 36 events.
Training strengthens the safety of imported products but also helps third countries to respect EU standards and thereby facilitates access for their products to the European market. In particular, it improves the efficiency of the skilled employees of the official competent authorities.  
In 2009, the EU programmes concerned: the HACCP principles; land, sea, rail and airport border inspection posts; microbiological criteria and control of zoonoses; food safety and controls; plant health controls; animal welfare; pesticides; legislation on animal feed.  
Activities in third countries were directed at: European food standards; the control of avian flu; training  in the RASFF and TRACES (Trade Control and Expert System) systems. Other training was for laboratory staff in the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) on food analysis and also training on the analysis of genetically modified organisms
The “Africa” programme’s activities began with an opening conference in April 2009 in Abbis Ababa and covered a range of subjects. Several activities organised by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) concerned the performance of veterinary services (PVS), the strengthening of national and regional legal frameworks, improving the skills of laboratory technicians and the training of Chief Veterinary Officers (CVOs). In 2010 the programme activities consist in particular of implementing a pilot project for on-line training as well as a study to identify best training practice.  
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