Food Law News - FAO/WHO/WTO/Codex - 2004

FAO Press Release, 25 May 2004

Food Safety, Animal and Plant Health Portal launched: Simplifies search for food safety regulations

FAO today launched the International Portal for Food Safety, Animal and Plant Health at a Regional Conference on Food Safety for Asia and the Pacific.

The Portal will enable a speedy and authoritative search for current food safety and food quality standards, regulations and other relevant official materials from a single search tool.

The actual information is maintained by the competent national institutions, relevant standard setting bodies and international agencies such as the Codex Alimentarius Commission, the International Plant Protection Convention, the Organization for Animal Health (OIE), FAO, WHO and the World Trade Organization (WTO).

The Web site is located at the following URL:

Essential information to promote food safety

"The portal provides accurate and easily accessible information on food safety and quality trade standards, which will make it easier for developing countries to upgrade their food safety systems so they can take advantage of export opportunities," said FAO Assistant Director-General Hartwig de Haen.

According to Louise Fresco, FAO Assistant Director-General, Agriculture, "The Portal will continue to build up information and will eventually be one of the world's most comprehensive sources of information on standards, regulations and other official information related to food safety, animal health and plant health. Through it, decision-makers, professionals and the public-at-large will have fast direct access to information that is essential to improve food safety as well as protect animal and plant health."

The International Portal on Food Safety, Animal and Plant Health currently contains more than 15 000 items, many translated into multiple languages and each described using a set of keywords supported by a powerful free text search.

According to Mike Robson, the Portal designer and manager, "This new Portal offers a unique and powerful capacity to disseminate information to users worldwide. The Portal meets a need for a reliable source of official information on regulations and standards, without the background of spurious "hits" found using conventional search tools. It will help improve consumer protection, the health of plants and animals and facilitate trade by letting traders and countries know exactly what safety regulations must be met to export their products safely."

Multinational effort

The Portal search engine provides rapid full text retrieval of documents in their original language. It was built using the open source Lucene software and has been designed to be as accessible as possible using slow dial-up connections.

FAO said it is encouraging all national authorities who have standards, regulations and other supporting materials published on the Web to take advantage of the Portal's features and link their information alongside that provided by other countries and by standard-setting bodies.

FAO, the United States of America, the Netherlands and Norway provided funding for the development of the Portal. FAO will manage the infrastructure of the Portal and its further development and maintenance guided by an interagency task force, but the information will remain the property of each contributing organization.

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