The food poisoning incident that happened in Caraga brought food safety to the people in the region. 

By Julio Yap, Jr.

In the Caraga region, the issue of food safety became an urgent concern after the Department of Health declared an outbreak of food poisoning in July 2015, during which 1,925 cases were reported due to poor hygiene in food preparation. 

DOST Secretary Fortunato De La Peña (center) together with DOST Caraga Regional Director Dominga D. Mallonga and Winrock-PCCP Chief of Party Daniel Gudahl during the launching of the Food Safe Caraga project in Butuan City.

While actions have been taken to prevent a repeat of the incident, the food regulatory system focusing on food safety in the region leaves much to be desired, especially in the areas of meat production in abattoirs, and by small scale livestock producers.

The same is true at the commercial and household level in the region, where food safety as an issue should also be considered.

There are many incidents of food poisoning, and tracing the causes is a good idea in the aftermath; however, prevention is even more important. To address this concern, the United States’ Department of Agriculture-funded Philippine Cold Chain Project (PCCP), a program implemented by the Winrock International Institute for Agricultural Development in the region, partnered with the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), and the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) to implement a food safety campaign.

The program aims to contribute to the government’s target of strengthening the food safety regulatory system by promoting and supporting improved practices in food production, handling, and marketing to ultimately protect the health and general welfare of consumers.

Before the end of 2015, the DOST, PIA, and Winrock International signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) during an event in Butuan City for the conduct of a public awareness campaign on food safety in the Caraga Region.

Signatories to the MOU included DOST Caraga Regional of the campaign, which include a series of training sessions for meat stall vendors, owners, and processors, as well as the general public.

A mass communication campaign with the use of different media tools immediately began. The campaign is expected to end this year, where the Caraga Region is expected to be a safer area when it comes to food handling and distribution, not just for food processors but also for each individual in the community.

After all, food safety is a global responsibility.

This story appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s January 2017 issue.