Food safety in Asian countries: Are there any control measures?

On behalf of GIZ, Consumers International (CI) conducted a study ‘Food Safety Control Measures in Developing Asian Countries’ (Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Bangladesh) with its objectives are to take stock of the existing food safety control measures in place in the studied countries and examine possibilities for strengthening the role of consumer organisations (COs) in monitoring and carrying out market surveillance. Although the study mainly focuses on the ASEAN region, Bangladesh is included in this study because of the presence of COs which are already working with agencies to address food safety concerns – a movement which is absent in the other three surveyed countries.

Key findings of the study indicate that consumers in all four countries are mainly concerned about: high use of agricultural chemicals; limited number of food inspectors; lack of properly equipped infrastructure and trained personnel to test and identify food safety risks; and poor hygiene practices among consumers, producers and food handlers.

The report is structured as follows: Firstly, a general overview of the necessity for a credible food safety system in the ASEAN region is provided. Secondly, the report examines the food safety concerns of consumers in each of the selected countries. Thirdly, the study gauges Cambodia, Lao PDR and Myanmar’s readiness for the ASEAN food safety harmonization process. The report also analyses Bangladesh’s experience with food safety control measures and COs. Best practices from Malaysia and Thailand are then discussed as possible ways to strengthen and enhance activities in the four surveyed countries. Lastly, recommendations are offered and conclusions drawn. This report is supplemented with individual country reports for the countries surveyed (Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Bangladesh).

Food is considered safe when it is suitable for consumption and does not cause harm to the consumer when it is prepared and/or eaten according to its intended use (World Health Organization).

The agriculture and food industry is one of the most important economic sectors in South-East Asia, accounting for up to 48% of the gross domestic product in the individual states. Until today, ASEAN Member States (AMS) have prioritised achieving food security by increasing food availability and access over concerns about food safety. In recent years, however, public attention to and demand for safe food has grown, in response to an increased awareness of the prevalence of foodborne diseases across the region. Although all of the countries across the world share similar concerns about the safety of their food, South-East Asia is subject to higher food safety risks due to climate, diets, income levels and public infrastructure.


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