Press Release
June 5, 2013

Senate approves Food Safety Act of 2012 to protect consumer health

The Senate today passed on third and final reading a bill which seeks to strengthen the food regulatory system in the country to protect consumer health and facilitate market access of local foods and food products.

Authored by Senators Jinggoy Estrada, Manny Villar, Edgardo Angara and Miriam Defensor Santiago, Senate Bill No. 3311, also known as the Food Safety Act of 2012, lays down a comprehensive framework that sets the benchmark for food safety in various stages from the harvest to the manufacture, processing, handling, packaging, distribution, marketing, food preparation until its consumption.

"Food is an essential part of our existence. Without food, we can hardly survive," Villar, chairman of the Senate Committee on Trade and Industry, said. "Whether our food is prepared at home or bought outside, we need the assurance that what we eat will not harm us. Approval of the Food Safety Act of 2012 answers our need to be reassured that we are consuming healthy food, free from food-borne diseases that can cause us harm."

The measure defines the roles and responsibilities of food business operators and government agencies involved in the food business, with emphasis placed on food business operators on their knowledge of the specific requirements and procedures relevant to their activities. Food business operators, under the measure, will also be held accountable on instances of food recall.

Government agencies such as the Department of Agriculture (DA), the Department of Health (DOH), the Department of Interior and Local Government, and local government units (LGUs), for their part, are mandated to monitor and/or regulate the area of primary production of post-harvest stages of the food supply chain.

"The DOH will be tasked to monitor the safety of processed and pre-packaged foods, while LGUs will monitor the compliance to food safety standards of food businesses such as slaughterhouses, dressing plants, fish ports, wet markets, restaurants and water refilling stations," Villar said.

"The DILG, working in collaboration with the DA, DOH, and other government agencies, will be tasked to supervise the enforcement of food safety and sanitary rules and regulations as well as inspection and compliance of business establishments and facilities," he added.

The measure also provides stiff penalties to those who are found guilty of violating its provisions, ranging from fines as low as P50,000 to P300,000 and the suspension of appropriate licenses to conduct business or to prepare food.

Approval of the measure also paves the way for the creation of the Food Safety Regulation Coordinating Board (FSRCB), whose powers and functions include monitoring and coordinating the performance of the mandates of the DA, DOH, DILG and LGUs in food safety regulation, crisis management and planning during food safety emergencies. It is also tasked with the establishment of policies and procedures for coordination among agencies involved in food safety, as well as the continuous evaluation of food safety regulations and research and training programs aimed at addressing food safety hazards.

"Food safety must also start with the upgrading of the skills and capabilities of our farmers and fisher-folk, the very people who work hard to put food on our table. This can now be addressed with the regular conduct of skills training of food business operators, particularly micro, small-and medium-scale enterprises," Villar further said. (YVONNE ALMIRANEZ, PRIB)

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