11 Food Safety in Malaysia: Challenges for the Next Millennium Jinap Selamat and Zaiton Hassan
INTRODUCTION Today's world global markets and the World Trade Organization (WTO), where the agreement on the application of the Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) measures and the Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) are being acted upon, worldwide initiatives have been taken to remove internal and external trade barriers, producing a more open "food market place" by gradual elimination of non-tariff barriers; equal regulatory treatment of domestic and imported products; action such as legislative/regulatory reviews to ensure domestic regulations are consistent with tenants of trading agreements; based on sound science and risk analysis greater transparency in all aspects of food legislation and regulation; harmonization of domestic standards with international standards such as CODEX, unless higher levels of protection can be justified. Under WTO, the CODEX Alementarius Commission has gained greater recognition. The Codex standard guidelines and recommendation including HACCP and Guidelines for HACCP Application has become the benchmark for international food safety requirement. The Malaysian food industry consists of about 5,645 manufacturers and 171,710 food services such as stalls, restaurants, etc. The value is about RM16.8 billion for domestic and RM 11.4 billion for imported foods and contributed to 11.95 of the GDP. Malaysian consumers expenditure on food is about 34.9 percent of their income (Harrison, 1998).
FOOD BORNE ILLNESS Most food borne illnesses are considered as food poisoning. They are caused by harmful microorganisms present throughout the environment in soil, air, water, and in the bodies of people and animals. These microorganisms are invisible and detected only through laboratory testing. Any food can become contaminated if not properly handled before consumption. Sporadic cases of food poisoning often occurs at large social functions, school canteen, or picnics where foods may be kept or handled at conditions that allow the pathogenic bacteria to quickly multiply and can cause someone to be sick after consuming the foods. Symptoms of classical food poisoning (caused by enterotoxin 161
produced by StaPhviococcus aureus) usually appear 2 to 3 hours of ingestion although it may appear earlier or later. The victim experiences nausea followed by vomiting and abdominal cramp; diarrhea may occur. Other symptoms may include fever and chills, weakness and headache. However, different pathogens will show characteristic symptoms for specific pathogen. Fortunately, people seldom get sick from ingesting contaminated foods because most people have a healthy immune system that protects them not only from bacteria on food, but from other harmful organisms in the environment. Food borne illness in healthy adults are self limiting and short duration. However, cases of poisoning if occur especially among the vulnerable groups namely, children under the age of five, pregnant women, the elderly and persons with impaired immune system (such as people undergoing cancer therapy, people taking immunosuppressive drugs and people infected with EV virus), and may result in death or other complications. FOOD SAFETY SYSTEM HACCP The term HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points) has caused apprehension to many food industries because of the requirement in HACCP. It is a process control system that identifies where hazards might occur in the food production process and puts into stringent actions to prevent hazard from occurring. HACCP is an effective food safety tool. It is a systematic approach to ensure product safety by implementing preventive measures to manage the hazards associated with foods. It is a system which have been recognized internationally and required under Codex Alimentarius. HACCP application consists of a logical sequence of twelve steps encompassing seven basic principles. The seven principles of a HACCP...
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