More minds are better than one
Ma. Lina B. Gelonga, 49, believes that more minds are better than one in the food safety mission. This is because food passes through many hands – from farm to table, and from factory to shelf. Food safety work thus calls for dialogue among diverse parties. Lone rangers need not apply.
In 2013, the Philippines passed the Food Safety Act, which got agencies to share expertise and information with one another. This has been a good step, says Ms Gelonga, who investigates new microbiological testing methods as a science research specialist in the Philippines’ Department of Science and Technology. For even better standards, she suggests more inter-agency collaborations, feedback from the ground, openness to technologies and a willingness to share findings – aspects she was exposed to at the Programme in Food Safety Technology. “Each of us is capable of great change,” she says. “We need to come together as one.”
Jun Leo, 48, who also attended the Programme, agrees that food safety is about attitude. The food and drug regulation officer at Mindanao’s Food and Drug Authority Lab explains: “Technology and implementations are crucial, but without a change in mindsets that food safety is important, nothing is possible.”
To change perceptions in a country with 103 million people across 81 provinces is no mean feat. Given the unique characteristics of each province, there is a need to tailor-make approaches, Ms Gelonga says. For example, in urban Manila, there is more regulation of food manufacturing plants. In the Visayan islands, food establishments are the focus.
But the food safety mission is worth it, especially when it goes beyond public health to benefit the economy as well, says Ms Gelonga. She adds, “If we work hard and push ourselves, there is no doubt that our efforts will boost the economy.”
Participants from the Department of Science and Technology, Manila, and the Food and Drug Authority Lab, Mindanao, Philippines, in: Programme in Food Safety Technology by Nanyang Polytechnic International, Singapore, and Temasek Foundation International
Text by Prabhu Silvam.
*More of such stories can be found in Temasek Foundation International's 10th anniversary commemorative book 'Leading Journeys: Inspirations for Asia and Beyond".