The food safety system is to guarantee food safety by implantation of a quality system, which covers the complete production chain, from the primary producer up to the final consumer. This means that the food Manufacturer is not only responsible for Good manufacturing Practices within his organization but must also deal with possible hazards which can occur before and /or after each step.
The development of an integrated approach to food safety, to replace the current highly fragmented and ineffective system, depends to a large extent on adopting the draft Law on Food Safety.
QUALEB III outlines the elements of the approach to food safety, as well as the conditions to be fulfilled and the resources to be available. However, given the scope and the sheer size of the task to set up a viable and effective system of official controls over the food chain, the present project only deals with a limited number of aspects, focusing mainly on system design and pre-conditions as well as training.
No matter how needed the development of a good system of food safety controls is from the point of view of consumer protection, great care is taken not to undermine the agricultural development of Lebanon, its export capabilities, and its food production capabilities. A good system must achieve the difficult objective of serving all the above goals.
- Provide assistance to develop a structure and the basic procedures of the national Food Safety Authority, which will enable an effective and efficient functioning of that organisation in fulfilling its tasks based on the new law.
- Develop a strategic plan, setting forth the longer term development of the organisation and its departments, detailing the planning structure and processes, and defining business information needs to monitor business objectives. The strategic plan needs to be translated into management plans, and operational plans for the organisation as a whole and for each of its departments, including detailed job descriptions.
- Develop a plan for effective control mechanisms within the food production chain and define the modalities for their structure, operation, and interactions, taking into account the current division of control tasks among Ministries, and perform a gap analysis, needs analysis and training, needs analysis for each of the Ministries.
- Identify and list the secondary legislation that needs to be amended, or developed in order to have a complete set of legislation for food safety. Assist in drafting of such secondary legislation, if needed.
- Initiate an impact analysis of sanitary and phytosanitary measures, as well as other methods for implementing food safety in order to identify the most important, most beneficial and/or least costly measures. It is the intention to rank potential measures on their impact on food safety and their effects on agricultural production and export capabilities in order to provide strategic guidance to the authorities in Lebanon in setting their food safety strategy.
- Provide training to inspectors of all the Competent Authorities involved in controls over the different links of the food chain. This includes trainings courses on topics such as: HACCP based systems audit techniques, HACCP prerequisites, registration and approval of food establishments, EU food safety legislation, organization and planning of official food controls, food establishments risk assessment and various other food safety related topics.
Food Safety Legislation
The legal framework and responsibility for food safety is fragmented amongst many Competent Authorities (eg: Public Health, Agriculture, Economy and Trade, Tourism, Industry, Custom as well as municipalities – all in charge of Consumer Protection and Market Surveillance in different sectors or at different levels).
Considering that Lebanon is in an accession process to the World Trade Organisation – WTO, a Consumer Protection Law has been adopted (Law Nr. 659, issued on 4 Feb. 2005, enacted on 10 May 2005), complying with the present EU requirements (Directives). At MoET, the CPD is a major player in the field of consumer protection. It is composed of a service of Studies and Awareness and a service of Control.
However, the intention to setup a Lebanese Food Safety Authority (LFSA) has not been realised. The organisation of the LFSA should have been based on the tasks and responsibilities defined in the Draft Law on Food Safety. However, during the Parliamentary Discussions, objections were raised by some Ministries about the loss of some of their responsibilities to the LFSA in the new draft law. The law accordingly was withdrawn from the Parliament by the Government by request from one of the ministries. The law accordingly became stalled and consequently the work on the preparations of the LFSA frozen. Some results however were achieved on technical matters, such as a draft strategic plan for food safety control, and, most importantly, two studies that for the first time ever try to map and quantify, with a systematic risk analysis approach, the microbiological and chemical risks related to food for consumers in Lebanon.
QUALEB’s immediate priority is drafting legislative documents to be used as the basis for the transposition of EU food Safety related regulations and guidelines, to the Lebanese National Food Safety Legislation. In particular, legislative documents are drafted for the establishment of a Lebanese National Food Establishments Registry, the registration and approval of food establishments, and the Multi Annual Control Plan for Official Food Controls Planning and Coordination in Lebanon.
Enhancing Traceability of food Products
The overall objective of the traceability system project in Lebanon is to make Lebanese food products safer, more competitive and capable to comply with stringent market standards and regulations. Thus, ensuring continued access to export markets, sustained Lebanese families’ livelihood and consumer health and protection.
Traceability component aims to strengthen the Lebanese food value chain by providing technical and consultancy assistance to ensure that, in terms of quality, safety and traceability, Lebanese food products comply with international standards and regulations, including the European food law 178/2002. It can thus overcome possible barriers to trade. The actions to be taken aim at improving the conditions for workers and businesses, and in generating and equitably distributing export generated income along the food value chain, thus achieving safer jobs and safer products.
The traceability project is to serve: stakeholders such as public administration, standards and inspection bodies, farmers, exporter’s, farm associations, food dealers, food transporters, food packers and other operators in the agro-industrial sectors through:
- Raising awareness on traceability and ISO 22005
- Developing an action plan to improve traceability of Phytosanitary, food and feed products.
- Drafting of regulation(s) in order to include traceability as a legal requirement and deploy operational procedures in the relevant competent authorities.
- Drafting traceability manuals for competent authorities.
- Effective implementation of quality and food safety management systems including traceability requirements and product recall as described in (EC) 178/2002, ISO 22005 and other standards and regulations in 10 selected Agro-industries
By ensuring access to export markets for the Lebanese products, Lebanese businesses and workers in the food and feed value chain, are able to continue produce and export in compliance with market requirements: without barriers and without endangering their livelihood.
Enhancing export Potential of Agro-Food Sector
QUALEB aims to support Lebanon’s objective to increase the competitiveness of Lebanese agro-food industry, and its compliance with international safety requirements to offer safer products, attracts investments and allows the penetration of Lebanese products into EU and other international markets. This is achieved via different tasks:
- Food SMEs support for 20 selected Agro-industries in ISO 22000 and HACCP based Food Safety Management Systems implementation,
- Food Safety and Corporate Social Responsibility training sessions,
- Communication events (workshops, meetings, study visits)
- ABC guide for exports to the EU market.