Prof. Dr. Pakdee Pothisiri is the Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Public Health.
“The Ministry of Public Health has the main responsibility in the area of food safety and consumer health. The main legal instrument we are using in this particular area is The Food Act. Beside that, the Government has recently issued a policy, announced by Prime Minister himself, to make Thailand ‘The Kitchen of The World’. We want to be able to guarantee the safety of food that has been produced and distributed in, and exported from, Thailand. We want to make sure that Thai food is meeting international standards.”
“The food standards promulgated under the Food Act are referenced to Codex standards. In the past, the problem has been lack of enforcement rather than a lack of a regulatory system. Because of the new policy of the Prime Minister, we are now trying to strengthen the enforcement of the law, and we are focusing on the problem of contamination of food, both chemical and microbial. Based on our experience, the common chemical contaminants are Beta-agonists that are widely used in pigs, also illegal preservatives such as Borax and Salycylic Acid, and – of course – pesticide residues.”
“What I mean by enforcement, is to ask all our personnel working in several Departments, such as FDA and the Department of Medical Science, to work with the Bangkok Metropolitan Authority to inspect all food stalls in the market place. In the Provinces we are asking the Provincial Governor and the Provincial Health Office to do the same kind of thing.”
“We are also issuing a ‘Safe Food’ logo for food stalls that have been checked three times and no contaminated food has been found. The stall can show to the consumer that this is a place they can buy safe food. The food may not be totally free of contaminants, but the level of residues is under control. Consumers can then chose where to buy vegetables and fruit.”
“In the long-run, the certification scheme will be a big burden for the Ministry, so the responsibility will be shifted to the market owners and owners of food stalls. They will have to carry out some kind of self-regulation, while we will have a system of surveillance with spot checks from time to time. We will withdraw the certified logo if we find they are violating the prescribed limits.”
“We are working together with MOAC to solve the problem of pesticide residues. We need to take a holistic approach, whereby we look at the food chain from farm to table, and delegate responsibility to make sure we have covered all the important steps in the food chain. We can’t solve the problem by just taking action at the end of the food chain; we also have to look at what the producers are doing. The Law on Control of Hazardous Substances prevents farmers from using banned substances. Those who possess or sell these banned substances will be seriously penalized. The difficulty is – again – how to effectively enforce the existing law.”