So Many Options for Food Safety!
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We had another busy day working on the executive service corps projects here in Da Nang. One thing that is unique to our food safety-related work is the number of city government departments which are associated with this very important topic. It seems that every meeting we have with government departments turns up another department which has some association and at least partial responsibility for ensuring the safety of the food supply to the residents and visitors of Da Nang.
So far, we have found that at least five city government departments are involved: Department of Health, Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Department of Industry and Trade, and to a lesser extent, Department of Culture, Sport, and Tourism, as well as the customs department. In addition to this, the city is a peer with other provinces within the country of Da Nang and so there are dependencies with government offices in neighboring provinces as well as with the National government.
This morning, we met with the Department of Industry and Trade to learn more about their role in food safety. It is clear that this department holds a piece of the puzzle around building a holistic view of how food travels from farm to table (or as we like to put it here – from farm to chopsticks!). Where the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development handles the earlier stages of food production (farms, live animal transport, etc.) and the Department of Health the later stages (consumer awareness, restaurant certification), the Department of Industry and Trade handles areas in the middle (wholesale and retail markets).
We spent the afternoon organizing and prioritizing a list of roughly twenty different recommendations which are have developed after looking across the current state of addressing food safety in the city. Our recommendations are aligned over five themes: end results; supply chain; governance; communication, awareness, and training; and visibility of information. Within each of these themes there are opportunities for improvement. Some can be implemented with low cost and effort while others will take planning and additional budget and skills to implement.
The next several days will be very busy as we coalesce our recommendations for food safety with the other teams' recommendations on water management and transportation. What is really interesting about this is the inter-play that each of these sub-areas have upon one another. A city really is a system of systems, and making changes in one area has effects on several other areas around it.
We're really rolling now in solution mode, getting our recommendations put together and prioritized for the city to consider!