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IAEA-supported New Data Sharing Committee to Improve Food Safety for Public Health in Latin America and the Caribbean


Regional food safety specialists came together at the launch of the RALACA Data Sharing Committee. (Photo: SENACYT)

A new Data Sharing Committee (DSC) in Latin America and the Caribbean, supported by the IAEA, will help ensure food safety in national and regional markets, and facilitate the international trade of food products. Launched on the margins of the Latin American Congress on Pesticide Residues hosted in Panama by the Ministry of Agriculture on 25 May, this new initiative will enable the official food safety laboratories of 17 countries in the region to share analytical data for public health with the long term goal of establishing a regional preparedness system for food safety. 

“Reliable data from analytical tests for residues, pesticides, contaminants, additives, and other substances in food for human consumption, carried out by food safety laboratories, will allow informed decision-making in accordance with the realities of the Latin American and Caribbean region. In addition, it will strengthen the participation and contribution of our region to international fora, such as the Codex Alimentarius,” said Yajaira Salazar Chacón, Head of the Food Safety Department of National Veterinary Services Laboratory, National Animal Health Service (SENASA) and Representative of Costa Rica to the Data Sharing Committee.     

Food safety laboratories use nuclear and related techniques to analyse food samples, providing valuable information that can shed light on the safety of food that is traded and consumed.  Properly functioning laboratories and strengthened controls and inspections can help identify types of hazards in food and contribute to minimizing opportunities for food fraud and contamination. Improved testing and access to comprehensive and accurate data will enable authorities throughout the region to manage and mitigate risks and improve risk-based monitoring programmes.    

Based on national needs and requirements, a database for food residues and contaminants was created, which is securely housed at the IAEA. Officially nominated and authorized users can input national data and view aggregated data for subsequent risk assessment exercises. A review process has been put in place to ensure that data submissions are standardized, and a data input tool has been established to harmonize data collection. The IAEA, through the Joint FAO/IAEA Centre of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture, has supported the development of a new legal framework to allow countries participating in the Data Sharing Committee to manage the database independently. Harmonized data will increase opportunities for conducting regional statistical analyses and encourage regional collaboration, including in response to crises. The intention is to expand the Data Sharing Committee initiative to include countries in the Caribbean as well, which will improve food safety for trade and public health purposes.  

"In the context of an increasing population and an increasing need for food safety, it should be highlighted that better food safety starts with better data. Through this initiative, we will start to think together collectively with the countries in the region, and our regional and international partner organizations, on how to overcome common challenges and how we can ensure safe and sufficient food for all,” said Britt Maestroni, IAEA Food Safety and Control Laboratory Training Officer, in her introductory remarks.   

The Data Sharing Committee will operate under the umbrella of RALACA (Red de Latino America y el Caribe). Formed in 2006 to improve food monitoring systems and ensure food safety, RALACA brings together 76 food safety organizations in 20 countries in the region. Over the past 30 years, the IAEA, together with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), has supported countries in the Latin American and Caribbean region in capacity building in food safety through more than 40 national projects and 16 regional and interregional projects. 

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