Food safety is everyone's business, and it is a must that all those involved with food processing either for home consumption or for business observe good food safety practices.

With this in mind, the European Union-funded Facilitating Agricultural Commodity Trade (FACT) project organised a three-day food safety awareness programme for 43 female and 2 male participants in Honiara from 27 to 29 October 2009.

The FACT project is implemented by the Land Resource Division of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) with the goal of increasing agricultural and forestry trade within the region and exports from it by ensuring a consistent and quality supply.

Mr Manasa Katonivualiku and Mr Vinesh Prasad of FACT conducted the training, which was jointly sponsored by EU FACT/SPC and AusAID's Agricultural Livelihoods Project (ALP).

One of the important issues involving food safety is proper documentation and keeping abreast of developments around the world on food safety issues; therefore the use of information and communication technology (ICT) was also introduced to participants.

The ICT component enabled participants to better understand the need for food safety and the import requirements of countries to which they plan to export their value-added processed food products.

Mr Grant Vinning of ALP welcomed the support of FACT and called for more collaboration in the future. "I appreciate the work that Manasa and Vinesh did with the food safety training in Solomons as I was amazed with the responses from the participants during feedback session."

"Since then I have had a chance to talk to some of the participants and all greatly enjoyed the course and said they found it very beneficial," Mr Vinning said.

According to one participant Ms Mary Olofia, the training was very helpful as there are many issues to consider when one is in the food processing business. "Often we used to ignore minor issues but after this course I have realised the importance of observing all the dos and don'ts in food processing. "We participants were also introduced to ICT and the benefit it has if we are willing to learn and use it."

Ms Olofia believes that awareness on ICT/food safety has increased the level of confidence of the participants and they can now strive to improve their practices during the course of conducting their business.

"I would also like to add that such training is not only beneficial to commercial food processing but also it can play a very important role in improving the health of the community at large.

"Now I am certain that all participants will pay due attention even if they prepare food at home and as a result food poisoning can be minimised. Ms Olofia added that 'issues like hygiene and proper processing had often been neglected, but that now she realises how important they are."

The FACT project complements efforts aimed at enhancing regional cooperation and integration. This includes the policy commitment of the European Union under the Cotonou Agreement to facilitate the integration of Pacific ACP (African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States) into regional and global economies.

FACT aims to assist export oriented, market-driven enterprises that will consistently supply overseas markets with competitive agricultural and forestry products.