Establishment of ARAC
Recognising the importance of a coordinated ASEAN risk assessment, the ASEAN Experts Group Food Safety (AEGFS), with Malaysia as the lead country, has been working to develop an integrated ASEAN Risk Assessment Mechanism. ASEAN Regional Integration Support by the EU (ARISE) supported a workshop on 25-26 June 2013 in Kuala Lumpur for AMS to discuss the potential role, terms of reference, and activities of such a mechanism. The recommendations from this workshop were presented to the 10th AEGFS Meeting held on 3 – 5 December 2013 in Brunei Darussalam, where consensus was reached on the need for the realisation of an ASEAN Risk Assessment Mechanism through the establishment of an ASEAN Risk Assessment Centre for Food Safety (ARAC).
Workshop on Initiating an Integrated ASEAN Risk Assessment Mechanism, 25-26 June 2013, Kuala Lumpur
The 10th Meeting of the AEGFS reaffirmed that ARAC should serve as a coordinating centre on risk assessment in ASEAN. It was agreed that the centre will be located in Malaysia, which will also provide secretariat support to ARAC. As a follow-up, the 10th Meeting of the AEGFS tasked Malaysia, with the assistance from ASEAN Secretariat, to formulate the Term of Reference (TOR) of ARAC to be circulated to the AEGFS.
In facilitating the development of ARAC’s TOR, ARISE in conjunction with DG SANCO supported a Study Tour to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) in Parma, Italy which was held from 7-11 April 2014. Participants were AEGFS Focal Points from nine ASEAN Member States, representatives from SOMHD Thailand, Chair of ASEAN Consultative Committee on Standards and Quality - Prepared Foodstuff Product Working Group (ACCSQ-PFPWG), and relevant desk officers of ASEAN Secretariat. This Study Tour served as a platform that enabled ASEAN delegates to learn from European Union’s experiences in performing risk assessment as well as discuss on how ASEAN risk assessment can move forward. Inputs and recommendations emanating from the wrap-up discussion during the study tour were incorporated into refining the TOR.
Study Tour to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), 7-11 April 2014, Parma, Italy
The refined TOR drafted by Malaysia was circulated to AEGFS through ASEAN Secretariat and endorsed via ad referendum in Jun 2014. The establishment of ARAC and its TOR was endorsed in the 9th Senior Officials Meeting on Health Development which was held in Chiang Rai, Thailand on 9-12 June 2014.
Subsequently the 12th ASEAN Health Minister Meeting (AHMM) in Ha Noi, Vietnam on 18 September 2014, announced the establishment of ARAC. The importance of ARAC is reflected in the 12th ASEAN Health Ministers’ Meeting Joint Statement, which states that:
“We commit to strengthen national food control systems and work together to contribute towards safe and quality food in the ASEAN Community. We recognise risk assessment as an important tool to provide scientific input in developing evidence-based food safety measures, and shall build capacity for integrated ASEAN risk assessment through the ASEAN Risk Assessment Centre for Food Safety (ARAC)”;
The important of ARAC once again has been acknowledged in the Chairman’s Statement of the 27th ASEAN Summit Kuala Lumpur on 21 November 2015:
“We recognised the establishment of the ASEAN Risk Assessment Centre for Food Safety (ARAC) in Malaysia as an important landmark in the application of an integrated risk assessment mechanism to provide independent scientific input by pooling and utilising scientific expertise across ASEAN in developing evidence-based common food safety measures in ASEAN. This would contribute towards safe and quality food in the ASEAN Community as well as in facilitating food trade within ASEAN”