FAO bake

Opening a traditional oven of baked food

Sunday To’onai is not just a time to eat on any given Sunday. It is an important family and social gathering steeped in the Samoan tradition of sharing food and prayer with family. the preparations for this day begin very early in the day and involve the making of the Samoan Umu (earth oven) and preparation of the fresh produce that is cooked within the Umu.

By Len Garae

Food and Agriculture Organisation Deputy Director General and Coordinator for National Resources, Maria Helena Semedo, will grace the first ever Pacific Week of Agriculture (PWA) at the Convention Centre next week from October 16 – 18.

She will be joined by Information and Communications Officer FAO Subregional Office for the Pacific Islands Apia, Samoa, Alison Small and FAO Communications Officer, Kevin Hadfield.

Their arrivals also coincide with World Food Day celebrations on October 16. FAO with local authorities and partners are tackling food safety across the Pacific including Vanuatu.

Subregional Coordinator for the Pacific Islands Eriko Hibi writes that growing concerns across other Pacific Island countries about human wellbeing has led to increased attention being paid to improved food safety and nutrition. “Consumers, food vendors, restaurants, universities to governments are all paying more attention to the role they can play in keeping us safe”, she writes.

FAO Communications Officer Hadfield says, “With World Food Day just around the corner(Monday, October 16), I thought I would draw your attention to the role my Organization, FAO, has been playing to keep you and our brethren across the Pacific safe and healthy.

“In Samoa, FAO has been working with Scientific Research Organization of Samoa and the University of Queensland to reduce post-harvest losses and food safety risks in producing and marketing fruit and vegetables. Food safety risk assessments were, for example carried out on leafy green vegetables such as Bok Choy cabbage, lettuce, coriander, basil, rocket, watercress and round cabbages by doing microbiological testing for harmful bacteria such as E.coli, L. monocytogenes and Salmonella at different points from harvesting to consumer purchasing.

“In the wider Pacific, FAO has contributed to strengthening food safety legislation in countries which have recently established a Food Act including the Solomon Islands, Nauru, Tonga, Kiribati, the Republic of the Marshall Islands and Federated States of Micronesia by contributing technical expertise and supporting the national consultation process for food regulations. These food regulations include registration of food premises for food hygiene certification, designation of official food inspectors, inspection of food businesses, inspection of imported food, labelling requirements on packaged food, expiry dates on food, and systems for handling food recalls and food complaints.

“National food regulations should be in place for effective operation and where necessary, supported through enforcement activities to ensure that producers and food transporters and marketers comply with food safety regulations. Such measures or regulations make food hygiene responsibilities clear for food business operators.

“Awareness campaigns coupled with food hygiene workshops can clarify safe food hygienic practices for operators. FAO has conducted training workshops for national food inspectors, such as Environmental Health Officers, for both domestic food business hygiene and for inspection of imported food at sea and air borders. The Organization has also worked with competent authorities responsible for food safety administration to strengthen inspection systems including the training of inspectors, provision of manuals and tools for inspection, and advise on systems for registration of food premises and monitoring and recording compliance history.

“Upon request for technical assistance from countries, FAO provides a package of activities to strengthen food safety. In Tonga over the past two years, FAO has partnered with the Ministry of Agriculture to facilitate the establishment of a Food Division, and has provided legal support and facilitated nationwide consultation on the food regulations, provided technical input to the food regulations, and Food Act amendment”.

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