Assessment of National Food Control System

Food safety and food control are long standing areas of work for FAO and WHO and over many years both organizations have developed guidelines to strengthen national food control systems together with approaches to support countries implement international guidelines and standards developed by Codex Alimentarius.
The term food control is used here to mean a mandatory regulatory activity of enforcement by national or local authorities to provide consumer protection and ensure that all food during production, handling, storage, processing and distribution are safe, wholesome and fit for human consumption; conform to food safety and quality requirements; and are honestly and accurately labeled as prescribed by the law. A national food control system(FCS) is the application and integration of food control activities by relevant national competent
authorities (CAs) across the food chain, including food-borne disease surveillance, and preventive and educational food safety strategies.
FAO and WHO have worked since 2015 to develop a tool to assist countries assess in a structured, transparent and measurable way, the performance of their national food control systems in order to identify priority areas for food control capacity development, and measure and evaluate progress over time. The “FAO/WHO Food Control Systems Assessment Tool”(FCSAT)that has been drafted considers food control functions and outcomes across all levels of food production (from primary production to processing, sale and consumption) and is based
on principles, guidelines and standards developed by Codex Alimentarius, FAO and WHO and related internationally-recognized good practices for food control.
The FCSAT aims to assess the dual objectives quoted in Codex for food control systems: 1) to protect health of consumers, and 2) to ensure fair practices in trade. The FCSAT therefore considers control functions and activities performed by all CAs that have a regulatory role in food control – including food safety and essential
quality attributes as defined in food law. Aspects of voluntary quality certification are consequently excluded from the immediate consideration in the FCSAT.
While the FCSAT focuses on food products it also recognizes and considers the impact of feed safety and other agricultural inputs (e.g. seeds, nursery stock, pesticides, veterinary drugs) on food safety and these aspects of food control are included in the assessment.
The FCSAT has been designed to be applied by countries themselves, or facilitated by external agencies, and its
outputs used to guide:
• improvements in the performance of different components of food control and the food control system
• investments by government and donor agencies, and
• support regional and international harmonisation of food control systems.
To date, the FCSAT has been applied in several countries and the experiences and feedback from field testing
have been incorporated in successively updated versions (Version1-2018 has been used in this assessment).
To facilitate the use of the FCSAT in the Near East region a training workshop on a draft of the FCSAT was held in
October 2017 under the auspices of the Arab Initiative on Food Safety for Trade Facilitation (SAFE 1 ). The
workshop was attended by Arab national and regional representatives and experts from competent authorities
responsible for food control activities. The workshop reinforced the need to build a platform of robust Arab
experience to support, over time, the use of the FCSAT for facilitated assessments within the “food safety needs
assessment” component of the SAFE program, and as a tool for self-assessment by countries in the region.
Following the regional workshop, Sudan expressed a strong interest in benefitting from a facilitated assessment
of their national food control system and, following approval from the SAFE governance body, a project was
developed with the guidance of the Sudanese Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) and Ministry of Health (MoH) for an
assessment to be undertaken in 2018-19 facilitated by the FAO.
OBJECTIVES
The application of the FCSAT in Sudan aims to address a variety of needs identified by the commissioning competent authorities – MoA and MoH– including:
• To describe in detail the current components, structure and status of the national food control system in Sudan in order to improve the system
• To have a baseline to direct and measure progress of improvements of the national food control system
• To identify priority areas of modernisation and investment in food control capacity development in Sudan – including by international donors
• To provide the Sudanese government with an evidence-based status report on Sudanese food control system to assist dialogue and negotiation with trading partners.
As the assessment involved input from all CAs in the Sudanese national food control system, extensive discussion was undertaken in advance of the assessment to ensure relevant Case and executives were on board and to ensure ownership of the assessment by all relevant agencies.
In this context it is important that CAs understand that:
• The assessment is about the coherence and performance of the Sudanese food control system and not about reporting on the individual performance of each CA
• The assessment is based on data submitted by the different Sudanese CAs. Data that is available but not provided may undermine the assessment and lead to incorrect conclusions
• The process is NOT owned by one Sudanese CA but involves the community of competent authorities in food control; this will require authorities to open to each other.
• The facilitated assessment process entailed significant work and participation by CAs who were not be compensated financially for their involvement. This required: focal /contact points to be designated in each CA and officially empowered and recognized to undertake the work of staff from various agencies were to be physical present at critical workshops and meetings on time and mobilization need to be provided to allow focal points and other staff to collect, compile
and report a significant amount of data, time and resources were to be made available to the assessment team during their missions
(meetings can last a day or loner if necessary), and additional information and data required needs to be promptly submitted.
• As the assessment is evidence-based, statements that are not supported by some type of evidence cannot be considered.
It is important to underline that the assessment is owned by the Sudanese government and while FAO has facilitated the assessment FAO is not permitted to disseminate the findings of the assessment to any other party without the approval of the commissioning CAs.
This ‘in confidence’ assurance aims to help different CAs to commit and engage in the assessment and to provide thorough data – including “sensitive” data – to the assessment team. The assessment team and lead assessor are also formally required to treat all data confidentially and not distribute or communicate independently about
it.

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