FAO's comment was made in relation to the recent food scare from chloramphenicol residues in animal feed.
Most countries have banned chloramphenicol for use in food animal production, FAO said.
Chloramphenicol has been evaluated several times by an internationally recognized scientific committee, the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA). The Committee concluded that the compound is genotoxic, which means it could cause genetic damages and possibly lead to cancer.
Chloramphenicol is also known to cause an extremely serious disease in people called "aplastic anemia". But the incidence of this disease is rare, according to JECFA, and probably could not be attributed to residues in food.
Based on this advice, the Codex Alimentarius Commission, the international body on food standards, stated that because of the toxicity of chloramphenicol a maximum residue limit cannot be established and that the substance should therefore not be used in food production.
There are alternatives to the use of chloramphenicol if the objective is to reduce bacterial contamination, FAO said. The UN agency recommended that all countries should develop an effective risk management strategy, based on Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point System (HACCP), to produce safer food. Effective controls require vigilance throughout the food chain, from the producer to the consumer.
In the case of aquaculture, FAO called upon countries to raise fish in a sustainable manner applying good agricultural practices and, where necessary, the prudent and responsible use of feed ingredients and veterinary drugs that have shown to be safe.
FAO said that developing countries need assistance to improve their ways of agricultural production, veterinary services and food control. This would require considerable capacity building with assistance from donor countries.
With the help of experts from around the world FAO has trained government employees, veterinarians and staff of the feed and food industries. There is further need for training in laboratory procedures, surveillance and inspection, as well as the implementation of HACCP throughout the production process, FAO said. National Competence Centres should be developed in each country for the prevention of food-borne diseases and contaminants.