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Brussels, 18 November 2010
Food safety: Commission seeks ways to further improve its successful Better Training for Safer Food initiative
Since 2006, the EU has trained 23,000 professionals worldwide to improve food safety through its Better Training for Safer Food initiative (BTSF). Now, the European Commission is seeking to further improve this initiative. It is launching a dialogue with all key stakeholders, including the African Union, starting today at a two-day high-level conference in Brussels. A working document recently adopted by the Commission on the BTSF programme serves as the basis for discussions. It identifies the challenges BTSF is facing and a series of possible actions to overcome them – including, for example, a study to accurately estimate training demand. The Conference will analyse the working document's proposals, both in terms of BTSF's core training activities within the EU and third countries and in light of actions taken in Africa on sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) issues within the Better Training for Safer Food in Africa programme (BTSF Africa).
Health and Consumer Policy Commissioner, John Dalli said: "Better Training for Safer Food has been a considerable success since its launch but we cannot rest on our laurels. A lot of work has already been done in terms of building for the future and the conference represents an excellent opportunity to gather the views of all stakeholders for further engagement and development of the programme. The benefits of the kind of training offered by BTSF are clear and we must ensure that it is well equipped to face the challenges of the coming years."
On the specific BTSF Africa programme, African Union Commissioner Rhoda Peace Tumusiime underscored "the centrality of SPS in the overall food chain in Africa."
In 2008, an intermediate assessment of BTSF was carried out. It aimed to assess the impact of the training on participants' work, to learn more about the implementation of training and its strengths and weaknesses and to obtain recommendations for the future. The assessment identified the following challenges:
Providing a level of training capable of responding to a huge and increasing demand
Clearer identification of training priorities and target audiences
Improvements to training quality, particularly by focusing on advanced-level courses with a strong practical element
Increased dissemination and more effective implementation of the train the trainer approach
Establishment of standard evaluation procedures for training quality and impact; improving organisational and procedural aspects such as planning of training and more interpretation provision
Overcoming the challenges
Based on the findings of the intermediate assessment, the Commission has recently drafted a staff working document. It proposes specific actions that will help BTSF successfully overcome the challenges. Suggested actions are divided into medium-short term (i.e. actions to be completed by the end of 2013) and long-term (i.e. to be completed after 2014). The former include actions such as:
A study to accurately estimate the demand for BTSF training
A pilot project to set up an e-learning tool for basic-level training
Increasing training output through closer cooperation
Reinforcing the train-the-trainer approach in the selection process
The long-term actions envisaged include among other things:
The implementation of e-learning for basic-level training
The introduction of basic- and advanced-level courses for all subjects
The organisation of international expert meetings to reflect on prioritisation of needs
The establishment of a summer school to increase availability of highly-qualified tutors
The short-medium-term actions identified in the Staff Working Document will not entail a budgetary increase beyond the annual amount of €15million agreed in 2006 and explored options to better organise long-term training. Any eventual increase relates to the longer term and will be subject to a prior cost-benefit analysis.
Around 200 delegates from the EU, the African Union (AU) and other third countries are attending the two-day high-level conference. They come from organisations including international standard-setting bodies, African Regional Economic Communities, academia and other stakeholders. Participants will be addressed by EU Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy, John Dalli, AU Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture, Rhoda Peace Tumusiime, the Belgian Minister for Small and Medium Enterprises, Entrepreneurs, Agriculture and Scientific Policy, Sabine Laruelle and the Malawian Minister for Agriculture and Food Security, Peter Nelson Mwanza.
Since 2006, BTSF has trained national-level control staff from the EU and across the globe dealing with food and feed law, animal health and welfare rules and plant health rules. Training consists of a series of ad-hoc programmes on subjects related to these areas. Some of these programmes take place in the EU and are primarily aimed at European participants. Others are in third countries and are specifically for people from third, and particularly developing countries.
In 2008, BTSF Africa was established. The main objective was to support food security in Africa by transferring technical expertise and by providing policy advice on food safety and quality. The knowledge and skills transferred will help African countries to produce and distribute agro-food products compatible with international SPS standards. This should contribute to reducing the likelihood of food-borne disease and related health and socio-economic burden.
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