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Abstract

The paper tackles the issue of food safety, which is generally defined as the assurance that food will not cause harm to the consumer when it is prepared and/or eaten according to its intended use. Echoing the recognition by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in 1996 that food safety is an element of food security, the paper discusses the importance of the food trade in the economies of many countries, as reflected in the health, economic and political consequences that arise when the food safety system of a country fails. It focuses on the Southeast Asian experience—their food marketing system, the current food safety situation, as well as the complexities brought about by the concern for food safety. Highlighted are the challenges in establishing and strengthening the key components of a food control system to ensure safety along the whole food chain continuum, the relationship between Codex standards and related texts, as well as the enormous responsibility faced by Southeast Asian countries in meeting the obligations of the World Trade Organization. Finally, several recommendations are outlined, stressing the importance of carrying out a needs assessment, participating more actively in Codex work, and taking advantage of the existing collaborative initiatives undertaken, including those in ASEAN, and the various technical assistance available for capacity-building in food safety.

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