European Commission - Press release
Food safety: Training initiative celebrates five years of contribution to making food safer worldwide
Brussels, 18 November 2011 – Since its creation five years ago, the European Commission's Better Training for Safer Food initiative (BTSF) has trained almost 30.000 professionals worldwide, thus contributing significantly to making food in the EU safer than it has ever been. Effective official controls on food safety and veterinary issues are vital for protecting public, animal and plant health. Harmonisation in this area allows businesses across the EU and beyond to compete on a level playing field and reap the benefits of increased trade in safe food.
"The initiative has been a considerable success since its launch 5 years ago and a lot of work has already been done in terms of building for the future," Health and Consumer Policy Commissioner John Dalli said." We can look back with a great deal of satisfaction but we must not rest on our laurels. The benefits of the kind of training offered by BTSF are clear and so we must continue to work to ensure that it is well equipped to face the challenges of the coming years," he added.
Workshop in Malta
To mark BTSF's fifth anniversary, the European Commission organised from 16-18 November, in Malta, a training workshop for Mediterranean countries on EU standards for plant health controls. Commissioner Dalli attended and addressed the workshop.
Participants visited an area with palm trees to witness how health controls, in particular those concerning the Red Palm Weevil (RPW), are performed. The RPW is a harmful insect that attacks a wide range of palm trees, such as date , coconut or areca palms. It is not native to the EU and entered its territory through imports of palm plants. The insect is now present in all Mediterranean Member States, causing concerns about the future of their palms.
History and benefits
Concrete training within BTSF began in 2006 and during that first year seven programmes were organised on different subjects related to the initiative's overall areas of focus. Since then, BTSF has expanded considerably and 25 programmes are now run annually. Between 2006 and 2011, approximately 29 000 people have participated directly in training from some 180 countries worldwide for a total budget of EUR 68 million.
The initiative was originally ad-hoc in nature but to cope with the rapid increase in its activity levels, the Commission considered it necessary to change its structure. An important element in this process was the outsourcing of certain training-related financial and administrative tasks to the Executive Agency for Health and Consumers during 2009-10.
BTSF trains national-level staff of EU Member States and third countries involved in official controls in the areas of food and feed law, animal health and welfare rules and plant health rules . It aims to increase officials' awareness of relevant EU legislation so as to give them a better understanding of the checks they need to carry out.
An intermediate assessment of the first two years of BTSF was carried out in 2008. It identified a number of challenges to which any long-term training strategy must respond. Foremost amongst these were the need to provide a level of training capable of responding to a high and increasing demand, to identify training priorities and target audiences more clearly, to improve training quality and to increase dissemination.
The Commission responded to these findings by adopting, in November 2010, a Staff Working Document, which proposes actions to enable BTSF to successfully overcome these challenges. These include, for instance, the development of an e-learning tool for basic-level training and studies to accurately estimate the demand for BTSF training and, in the longer term, the establishment of a summer school for tutors and the creation of a post-graduate training centre for previous participants.
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