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Safe eating in an unsafe world |

Health And Family

Safe eating in an unsafe world

CONSUMERLINE - Ching M. Alano - The Philippine Star

When Christmas comes, can the holiday binging be far behind?

Hoho-of course — eat, drink and be wary!

Holiday binging or not, we’re confronted every day with this nagging question: How safe is the food we eat?

Sharing a mouthful on the issue of food safety is Glenwood Technologies which recently celebrated its 20th anniversary in the Philippines, with public and private sectors pledging to make the Philippines a food-safe country. Addressing an issue that’s close to our hearts, nay, stomachs, the event was graced by some of the best minds who continue to develop and improve the food safety landscape in the country, like Dr. Teodulo Topacio Jr., national scientist, Dr. Sonia de Leon, the first food technologist in the Philippines; Pamela Forshage, vice president for technology of Universal Robina Corporation and VP of the Philippine Association of Food Technologists.

The event also launched the third issue of Food Safety Trends Philippines, the very first magazine to tackle food safety and quality awareness, from farm to table, with focus on the Philippine setting. The issue includes such absorbing topics as: dining out safely, catering tips on how to handle food, food safety according to our chefs, five-star food safety, and the Philippines as a food destination. For instance, on handling leftover food, did you know that hot leftovers should cool before storage while cold leftovers must be refrigerated immediately? That hot food must be kept hot, cold food must be kept cold before serving? Now, we know!

When dining out (which we do a lot of not just during the holiday season), know that even if a restaurant looks clean, it’s no guarantee that the food there is safe to eat as most restaurants don’t have the HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point) food safety programs.

Glenwood Technologies gives us more to chew on in this Q & A:

PHILIPPINE STAR: What are the current food safety issues in the country now?

CECILE R. ILAGAN: Recently, foodborne outbreaks have been reported, which could be attributed to various factors. Food safety is a vast topic, which covers checking of raw materials to end products, food handlers, the process of food handling itself, the environment, to hygiene and sanitation, etc. While the private sector has been exerting efforts in assuring the safety of their products, awareness and stricter implementation should be done. The Philippines has a dynamic composition when it comes to food production, thus it won’t be an easy journey. The Philippines is now developing its program, especially with the signing into law of Republic Act 10611 or the Food Safety Act of 2013. With the presence of this law, we’d be needing stricter implementation and monitoring, and traceability is very important in making sure that in every step of the process, food safety is assured. It is not an overnight thing, thus the partnership of the public and private sectors is a must, and consumers must be well aware also of what food safety is. It is in this regard that we share food safety information not just with the industry but practically with everyone who needs it; food safety education is a vital part of food safety assurance. 

How safe is our street food? Who’s monitoring our street food? We now have a lot of food trucks. How safe is food being sold there? Is there also somebody monitoring the safety of food in the school canteens?

Food Business Operators are responsible for the production of safe food, and are bound by regulations. When it comes to roles and responsibilities in monitoring food safety in the country, Article V, Sec. 15 of RA10611 states the following:

a) The DA shall be responsible for food safety in the primary production and post-harvest stages of the food supply chain and foods locally produced or imported in this category.

b) The DOH shall be responsible for the safety of processed and prepackaged foods, foods locally produced or imported under this category, and the conduct of monitoring and epidemiological studies on food-borne illnesses.

c) The LGUs shall be responsible for food safety in food businesses such as, but not limited to, activities in slaughterhouses, dressing plants, fish ports, wet markets, supermarkets, school canteens, restaurants, catering establishments, and water refilling stations. The LGU shall also be responsible for street food sale, including ambulant vending.

d) The DILG, in collaboration with the DA, the DOH, and other government agencies shall supervise the enforcement of food safety and sanitary rules and regulations as well as the inspection and compliance of business establishments and facilities within its territorial jurisdiction.

e) The LGUs may be called upon by the DOH and the DA to assist in the implementation of food laws, other relevant regulations, and those that will hereafter be issued.

f) The DA and the DOH shall capacitate the LGUs and provide necessary technical assistance in the implementation of their food safety functions under their jurisdiction. In compliance with this responsibility, they shall provide training to the DILG and the LGUs and shall periodically assess the effectiveness of these training programs in coordination with the DILG.

g) The DA and the DOH, in cooperation with the LGUs, shall monitor the presence of biological, chemical, and physical contaminants in food to determine the nature and sources of food safety hazards in the food supply chain.

Thus, with your question on whose responsibilities this would fall, the LGUs have a large role to play especially with the establishments under their respective territories.

With the fast-approaching holiday season and people doing their food groceries or eating out, what food safety tips can you give to the public?

Be prudent in choosing the products you buy. Be mindful and observant also of how food products are prepared or handled, and consider the environment where food is prepared. Be a smart consumer and food preparer. Food safety doesn’t stop with purchasing food but also with the preparation of our own food at home. Food safety is encompassing and to have more knowledge on food safety, especially on facts and some pieces of advice, visit, or; or send inquiries to or

It will also be helpful if individually, we become advocates of food safety. Like us at Glenwood, we value our role as advocates of food safety awareness. While we give premium to providing the needs of the industry in assuring that the products reaching the market are safe for consumption, we also make sure that individually, we are conscious consumers, food preparers, and food safety advocates as well.

The interplay of the roles of government, the private sector, and individuals is significant in uplifting the food safety culture in the Philippines.

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