The control of food safety through the adoption of a comprehensive monitoring approach requires the building of a holistic and supportive legislative and institutional system that would render protection of consumers’ health and public health, as well as encourage fair practices in food trade national priorities. Consequently, and within the framework of identifying the issues that ought to be addressed to develop the food safety system in Palestine, the following paragraphs present the main problems that emerged during the consultations that took place during the preparation of this strategy, which will be addressed concurrently during implementation.
a review and assessment of Palestinian legislation pertaining to food safety in Palestine reveals significant operational weaknesses in the Palestinian food safety system. Firstly, there is no primary or secondary legislation that covers all aspects of food safety at all levels of the food chain. The legal framework regulating food safety in Palestine is fragmented and includes a number of legislations that cover various aspects of food safety but they are not harmonized. Furthermore, there is not a clear coordination mechanism to comply with the requirements of a modern legal framework for food safety that is in harmony with international standards.
the continuation of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, including full and complete control over areas classified as ‘ Area C’, which comprises 62% of the West Bank in accordance with the Oslo Accords, prevent and hinder the ability of Palestinian control authorities to enforce policy and procedures relevant to food safety in large areas of the Palestinian territories. Furthermore, the Paris Protocol which governs economic relations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority restricts the ability of the State of Palestine to control imports by Palestinian merchants. The protocol restricts the requirements for food import in the State of Palestine to the approval by the Israeli Ministry of Health and Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture. This leads to the presence of large amounts of food products that are smuggled into the Palestinian market without the prior receipt of permission from the Palestinian Ministries of Health and Agriculture.
the complex nature of the food system resulting from the very diverse nature of foods and the multiplicity of food production, transport, marketing and storage systems renders food safety a crosssectoral issue in which the responsibilities of different governmental bodies and agencies -with their legal and organisational frameworks and their human and financial capabilities- overlap. This requires strong, clear and flexible institutional arrangements that enable decision-makers in these institutions to make decisions on food safety in a timely manner, especially in times of crisis or emergency. The need for such arrangements is further exacerbated by the absence of a central system in Palestine for the collection and analysis of data on food safety; for the conversion of raw data into information leading to a specific and applicable methodology and policies. Therefore, the development of a data management, analysis and storage systems should be considered as a priority for developing food safety systems.
within the framework of Palestine’s membership quest in the World Trade Organisation and to accomplish economic growth through increased exports, the obligations of the State of Palestine within the framework of the Agreement on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures- (SPS) increase. The World Trade Organization identified restrictions on the policies of state parties relevant to food safety (bacterial contaminations, pesticides, inspection and marking), as well as animal and plant safety relevant to exported diseases and disorders. Currently, and despite advancements during the past years, the institutions of the State of Palestine lack the necessary capacity to effectively respond to the needs of building an economy based on exports and globalised trade.
as a result of the weak control system in general, diseases relevant to food safety and poisoning often go unreported or improperly identified, such that the vast majority are attributed to unknown reasons. This hinders and weakens the capacity of relevant authorities to implement the necessary responses and procedures to address the problems incurred by these diseases or that could be causes in the future. Additionally, there are other hazards transmitted through foods such as diseases that affect both humans and animals, or example, Brucellosis, so that there is an increase in its prevalence. Another aspect pertains to chemical contaminants from pesticides or remnants of veterinary treatments whose impact might emerge in the long term, as well as many obstacles relevant to consumption of meat that is not subjected to veterinary inspection of slaughterhouses.
despite the efforts of different monitoring institutions, monitoring over production systems and food distribution along production chains to ensure safe usage and consumption still lack a number of elements, most importantly monitoring of remnants and contaminants (biological, chemical and physical). The absence of such restraints has a negative impact on food safety, such that the system does not allow appropriate follow-up, in addition to the inability to evaluate the safety of food production systems and its distribution rapidly to ensure adherence to national standards and prevent the spread of diseases or epidemics as a result of unsafe food. Perhaps the most important shortcoming in the monitoring system on food production systems lies in weak monitoring over food and exported production inputs, including inspection, control and testing of exports to ensure their safety and quality. Another important shortcoming lies in weak monitoring at the beginning of the food chain that is locally produced, including over animal products, meats that are slaughtered outside of slaughterhouses and home-processed dairy products, in addition to the spread of joint diseases and the consumption of pesticide-contaminated plants.
food safety hazards tend to increase in times of crises and emergency. There is usually a scarcity in resources to address hazards in these cases. Additionally, the safety of produced and donated foods given in times of emergency require special attention in many cases. Food safety control systems in Palestine, despite political events and emergencies over of the years, are characterised by the absence of mechanisms that ensure their effectiveness in times of emergency, in addition to weak official coordination, including with the private sector and non-governmental organisations, to mitigate and manage risks and prevent unwanted food safety practices along the food chain during times of emergency.
the necessities to activate risk analysis in accordance with the basic principles of the Codex Alimentarius remain weak. The three components of risk analysis are risk evaluation management and reporting. Risk analysis requires a high degree of advancement in data collection and analysis, and thereafter high coordination and communication among stakeholders in risk management, in addition to reporting to stakeholders of food safety. There is also a need to connect risk management into all monitoring activities.
this reflects on the development of technical and organisational capacities.
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