UNIDO helps Sri Lanka improve food safety standards, preserving the recent boom in tourism and boosting the local economy
In 2009 more than two decades of civil war in Sri Lanka came to an end, and the country began the task of recovering from the immense hardships experienced by the population and the massive disruption of the economy.
Even though tourism boomed immediately after the end of the war, problems remained – among them, a growing concern about the safety of food consumed by locals and tourists. Improving food safety and standards, and the process of assessment, became an immediate necessity in order to support the restoration of the country’s economy. The tourism industry; food hygiene and safety; occupational safety; and environmental management - all these had to be adapted to meet international standards.
Two years before the end of the war, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) had helped the Ceylon National Chamber of Industries, and the National Chamber of Exporters, to establish Ind-Expo Certification, a not-for-profit body to support Sri Lanka’s economic development by providing internationally accepted and credible conformity assessments and training. The enhancement of knowledge in the application and implementation of conformity assessments in the country’s industrial, as well as service sectors was deemed essential to meet international requirements and standards.
Today, Ind-Expo is registered as a public, non-profit, training and certification body, which maintains a strong portfolio, offering certification services, food safety training and awareness programmes for the food catering, as well as the industrial, sector throughout the country, and training on the requirements and internal auditing of numerous ISO-created, food safety and occupational health and safety standards. Furthermore, Ind-Expo is internationally recognized by the Chartered Institute of Environment and Health (CIEH UK).
Ind-Expo also operates Crowns for Food Hygiene, a scheme based on international best practices, which has been developed to assist and encourage food businesses in Sri Lanka to follow good hygienic practices. By registering with the scheme, food businesses are able train their food handlers and thereby to prepare and serve safe and hygienic food for their customers. Food-handling establishments, including hotels, restaurants, and school and hospital canteens, which register with the scheme, are inspected and categorized according to their hygienic level and are then awarded between one and five crowns. The scheme is based on, and partners with, the highly successful “Scores on the Doors’’ scheme operated in the United Kingdom. The Crowns for Food Hygiene scheme is fully recognized through Memorandum of Understandings with three Sri Lankan municipalities, as well as with the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority.
The ongoing project is part of UNIDO’s Trade Capacity Building activities, and is funded by NORAD (the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation). NORAD’s senior advisor, Dag Larsson, recently commended the achievements of Ind-Expo and the support provided by UNIDO based on a new approach to certification service, and expressed his hope that the establishment of Ind-Expo can be used a model for similar support in the future.
Since the start of the project, Ind-Expo has trained a total of 3,784 beneficiaries in Sri Lanka. By the end of the project, Ind-Expo should be able to sustain itself without any external help and will have reached its ultimate goal of becoming an independent, transparent and sustainable business.
Rishad Bathiudeen, Sri Lanka’s Minister of Industry and Commerce, recently commended the Crowns for Food Hygiene scheme initiated with the Colombo Municipal Council, and announced the project’s imminent expansion to neighbouring districts. Minister Bathiudeen said he anticipated a remarkable change in the tourism industry of the country as a result of the efforts of Ind-Expo and the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority to upgrade food safety and hygiene conditions in the country’s tourist hotels and restaurants.
With the country’s flourishing tourist trade and its large urban population, taking precautions is very necessary: food-borne illness can spread quickly. A great number and variety of food outlets, from five star hotels serving gourmet meals, to small restaurants and bakeries, are at risk of closure for not conforming to food safety legislation. Sri Lanka is taking an innovative approach to this challenge and - with UNIDO’s and NORAD’s help - is on its way to facilitating further trade, through the development of these crucial measures.
For more information about the Ind-Expo, go here: http://www.indexpocertification.lk
For more information about the Crowns scheme, go here: http://www.crowns.lk
For more information about the project, please email:
By Eva Manasieva