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Asian food exporters face tighter EU laws


In answer to European consumers' increasing worries about food safety, suppliers in Asia are likely to face stricter conditions next year, both at government and private sector levels, according to a report in the Bangkok Post.

The warning was made at the Modern Food Chain Seminar, a two-day event which opened in Bangkok, Thailand yesterday.

The seminar was sponsored by the British Embassy in Thailand in association with Trade Partners UK and the Thai Ministry of Agriculture.

A group of large retailers in the EU would encourage farmers to standardise their produce next year, said Richard Baines, a lecturer in management systems for food safety and environment at Britain's Royal Agriculture College.

He added that they would be asked to meet standards called Eurep GAP (Euro Retailer Produce Working Group with certification as meeting Good Agricultural Practices), which allows retailers to trace product origins. Eurep GAP also encompasses environmental and labour standards.

Eurep represents an association of large European supermarkets, leaders in the food sector, which require suppliers of fruit and vegetables to meet GAP standards. When a product has Eurep GAP certification, customers can be sure that it is safe and that it was produced in an ecologically sound manner verified by an internationally recognised independent entity.

Large retailers in the EU such as Tesco and Sainsbury, in conjunction with non-profit organisations, have also set their own restrictions.

Eurep GAP, initiated in 1996, was now being implemented more seriously, Dr Baines said, adding consumers in Europe now wanted food certification to cover standards such as Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP).

''If they (European consumers) eat chicken they really want to know whether those chickens were happy, what they ate, what they want, even the chickens' names,'' Dr Baines said.

Steve Purser, the vice-president of Tesco-Lotus in Thailand, said that in Britain food processors were required to meet standards known as British Retail Consortium (BRC).

BRC requires food processors to adopt HACCP and imposes additional controls on factories and their employees, the environment and product quality.

However, Purser said Tesco-Lotus in Thailand did not have a policy yet to ask local suppliers to comply with BRC standards.

Barney Smith, the British ambassador, said that although food safety restrictions initiated by retailers were not laws, it was likely that food exporters to the EU would have to comply with the rules if they wanted to conduct business.

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