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Food forum says authorities should be transparent on food safety


Food safety regulators participating in a global food forum said authorities should be completely open in assessing the risks during food scares to avoid misunderstanding and public panic, reported Reuters.

"Some concerns were expressed that the mass media may misreport a food safety emergency and cause public panic," the U.N-sponsored forum said in a final statement after three days of talks involving around 300 food safety experts from 104 countries.

"It was suggested that to avoid this circumstance and build trust there must be complete transparency in the risk assessment process and open, direct communication with the media," it said.

The meeting, sponsored by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and World Health Organisation (WHO), began on Monday in the Moroccan city of Marrakesh in the shadow of a new food scare in Europe.

On Friday, the European Union's Veterinary Committee recommended that the bloc suspend imports of some meats and seafood from China.It acted after the discovery in shrimps and prawns from China of residues of chloramphenicol, a potent antibiotic drug posing a potential risk to human health.

The antibiotic's use has long been restricted to treatment of such life-threatening diseases as anthrax and typhoid because of the risk of its causing a potentially lethal form of anaemia.

EU food safety Commissioner David Byrne said last week the chloramphenicol scare was worsened by a failure to pass on information quickly.

"There were did not happen quickly enough. Although there was no danger to the public it was a lesson that we have to be vigilant at all times," Byrne said.

An official of the Codex Alimentarius Commission, the international food standards body, said media had passed wrong information to the public during the chloramphenicol scare.

This notably applied to reports that might needlessly have caused people to avoid buying veal, the official said.

Recent international concern over food safety has been aroused mainly by the spread of mad cow disease.

Meanwhile officials at the ground-breaking informal meeting said it should be repeated in future."The forum is the first of its kind to be held on food safety. It will be the start for other meetings devoted to this increasingly crucial issue," said Catherine Geslain-Laneelle, head of the Nutrition Department at France's Agriculture Ministry.

FAO representative, Azzeddine Boutrif told a news conference participants had called for science-based food safety regulations and for testing by those involved at various stages in the food production process.

"The participants demanded control actions to be taken throughout the food chain with the participation of stakeholders in the production process," Boutrif said.

Boutrif said the forum had not yet set a date and venue for its second meeting.

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