Results of projects in three countries contributing to improved food safety systems have been published by FAO.

The efforts, involving the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), took place in Belarus, Armenia and Georgia.

Improving the system in Belarus
The work in Belarus, with an FAO contribution of $310,000, took place from April 2019 to December 2021. There were delays due to administrative constraints and problems recruiting international consultants.

The country’s food safety control system has a multi-agency framework that involves the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Agriculture and Food, and the State Committee for Standardization. These agencies work independently, with overlapping mandates and responsibilities.

The project assessed the existing system and provided recommendations to optimize it. However, it was not possible to complete the self-assessment of the current official food control system.

Improvements have been made to the national food safety framework, priority official food control functions and capacities of national experts. It is hoped that this will contribute to the production of safe and quality food for the domestic market and to increase competitiveness in international trade, according to a summary of the project.

About 100 people were trained in risk assessment, risk communication and international food safety reporting systems. Several training courses were provided to increase practical laboratory analysis skills.

Joining the World Trade Organization (WTO) and diversifying export markets are high priorities for Belarus.

Meat and dairy producers and exporters learned about export market diversification and received business and technical information on exporting to China, Vietnam, UAE and EU Europe, which have been selected as key markets.

Risk aid in Armenia
A project in Armenia, with an FAO contribution of $315,000, ran from May 2019 to December 2021.

The Food Safety Inspection Body (FSIB), the agency responsible for official controls of food safety, animal and plant health, said that a methodology for assessing risks in food safety, veterinary and phytosanitary services was needed. Improved risk assessment capacity would help ensure food safety and animal health controls in Armenia, and help authorities better meet trade requirements.

The methods included training courses, direct advice from experts and guidance documents on risk analysis. This covered risk-based and evidence-based approaches in decision-making, risk ranking, chemical and microbiological risk assessment and risk-based food inspection.

The country’s government is also currently working on a national food security strategy.

The project has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic as well as political and economic unrest in the country.

It is hoped that strengthening the authorities’ capacity in food safety, animal and plant health risk management and assessment will improve the safety and quality of food produced and consumed in Armenia and increase competitiveness in international commerce.

Animal Control in Georgia
Another project supported the creation of an EU-compliant identification and traceability system for livestock in Georgia.

The objective of the National Animal Identification, Registration and Traceability System (NAITS) is to help improve the health of livestock through the control and eradication of certain major diseases and to improve food safety through the traceability of cattle, small ruminants and pigs.

NAITS is based on open source frameworks to avoid any licensing costs. Equipment has been provided to intended users of the software and slaughterhouse staff and National Food Agency field veterinarians have been trained.

The Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture and the National Food Agency can now identify, record and monitor animal health prevention and intervention actions.

The expected impact of the five-year project, which ended in December 2021, was increased incomes, competitiveness and productivity through improved animal health, reduced food risks and improved access to regional and international markets.

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