Aquino signs bill aimed at protecting consumers from trade malpractices

MANILA, (PNA) — President Benigno S. Aquino III has signed into law a bill aimed at protecting consumers from trade malpractices and substandard or hazardous products.

The Chief Executive signed on Aug 23 the “Food Safety Act of 2013.″

The Act, a consolidation of Senate Bill No. 3311 and House Bill No. 6474, was finally passed by the Senate and the House of Representatives on June 5, 2013.

The Food Safety Act of 2013 lays down a comprehensive framework that sets the benchmark for food safety in various stages from the harvest to the manufacture, processing, handling, packaging, distribution, marketing, food preparation until its consumption.

To strengthen the food safety regulatory system in the country, the state is adopting measures to protect the public from food-borne and water-borne illnesses and unsanitary, unwholesome, misbranded or adulterated foods.

The state is also enhancing industry and consumer confidence in the food regulatory system.

The state is working towards achieving economic growth and development by promoting fair trade practices and sound regulatory foundation for domestic and international trade.

The law defines the roles and responsibilities of food business operators and government agencies involved in the food business, with emphasis placed on food business operators on their knowledge of the specific requirements and procedures relevant to their activities. Food business operators, under the measure, will also be held accountable on instances of food recall.

The Dept. of Agriculture shall be responsible for food safety in the primary production and post harvest stages of food supply chain and foods locally produced or imported in this category.

The Dept. of Health shall be responsible for the safety of processed and prepackaged foods, locally produced or imported foods under this category and the conduct of monitoring and epidemiological studies on food-borne illnesses.

The local government units will monitor the compliance to food safety standards of food businesses such as slaughterhouses, dressing plants, fish ports, wet markets, supermarkets, school canteens, restaurants, catering establishments and water refilling stations.

The LGU shall also be responsible for street food sale, including ambulant vending.

The Dept. of the Interior and Local Government, in collaboration with the DA, the DOH and other government agencies, shall supervise the enforcement of food safety and sanitary rules and regulations as well as the inspection and compliance of business establishments and facilities within its territorial jurisdiction.

The law also provides stiff penalties to those who are found guilty of violating its provisions, ranging from fines of P50,000 to P500,000 and the suspension of appropriate licenses to conduct business or to prepare food.

The law paves the way for the creation of the Food Safety Regulation Coordinating Board, whose powers and functions include monitoring and coordinating the performance of the mandates of the DA, DOH, DILG and LGUs in food safety regulation, and crisis management and planning during food safety emergencies.

The Board is also tasked with the establishment of policies and procedures for coordination among agencies involved in food safety, as well as the continuous evaluation of food safety regulations and research and training programs aimed at addressing food safety hazards.

The law mandates the DA and the DOH to jointly issue the implementing rules and regulations within ninety (90) days after the effectivity of this Act.

This Act shall take effect 15 days after its publication in two newspapers of general circulation.