Press Release
July 5, 2015


Sen. Chiz Escudero asked the government to convene the Food Safety Regulation Coordinating Board (FSRCB) so the food safety super body could map out plans on how to combat the entry not only of "synthetic rice" but also of other unsafe food into the market.

Escudero also called on Malacanang to include in the 2016 proposed national budget it would submit later this month the funds required to fully implement Republic Act 10611, or the Food Safety Act of 2013.

According to Escudero, lead government agencies, like the Departments of Health (DOH) and Agriculture (DA), should make up for the one and a half years spent in drafting the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the law meant to ensure that food from farm to the dinner table are safe and clean.

The secretaries of health and agriculture departments jointly chair the multi-agency FSRCB, which also draws in members from the Departments of Trade and Industry (DTI), Science and Technology (DOST), and the Interior and Local Government (DILG), and various leagues of local government units.

Among the powers of the board is to manage food safety emergencies, pursuant to the Food Safety Law's requirement to put in place a "rapid alert system for the notification of any risk to human health caused by unsafe food."

Under the law, the FSRCB is tasked to craft policies and procedures on coordinating food safety regulatory and enforcement functions, research, training, monitoring and surveillance programs. "The idea is to have a high level of food safety, protection of human life and health in the production and consumption of food," Escudero said.

Escudero said he will be grilling "the responsible agencies on the state of the implementation of the Food Safety Law when they appear before us next month to justify their 2016 budget requests."

"For example, have we set up tripwires in our country's ports so that unsafe food can be detected? Is the sentinel system in place, one that can detect dirty food? " Escudero said.

This "early warning device" for food, he said, "is needed so that food bought by consumers will not harm them, that the information stated in the label are true, and so that if consumers get sick after eating that food we can pinpoint culpability."

"Another update I will demand pertains to the creation of a national army of food inspectors," Escudero said, referring to the law's requirement that "professionally qualified and properly trained food safety officer be appointed by food safety regulatory agencies and local governments." Escudero said the food safety regulatory system must also be probed for loopholes.

"Do food safety standards, inspection, testing, data collection, monitoring and other activities eliminate risks in the food supply chain?" In this regard, have we set up a traceability system pursuant to international protocols," Escudero added.

Under the law's IRR, food business operators shall be required to establish "a traceability system for food, food-producing plants and animals and other inputs in the primary and post-harvest stages of the food chain."

Escudero explained that RA 10611 creates a division of labor in guaranteeing "food safety for all." All fresh produce or primary food obtained from primary production shall be under the jurisdiction of the agriculture department.

The Food and Drug Administration, which is under the health department, shall be responsible for all processed food, whether prepackaged or not.

For food imports and exports, the DOH and DA, in consultation with the Bureau of Customs shall develop a manual of procedures for inspection and clearance.

By pulling all the stops in implementing the Food Safety Law, Escudero said, the government would help the country's food exports earn a "healthy seal" and acceptance in foreign markets.

RA 10611 was signed into law by President Aquino in August 2013, but its IRR only came out last February.

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