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Making Lebanon’s food safe

[photo]
The certificate program is open to the public.

June 15, 2015—

The food industry in Lebanon and the surrounding region is in dire need of food safety professionals, says LAU Assistant Professor of Food Science and Technology Hussein Hassan.

“We have a lot of biology, chemistry and nutrition graduates with general scientific knowledge that is not specific to food safety,” he says. “This is why the Continuing Education Program (CEP) at LAU launched the Food Safety Certificate in a bid to meet the demand of food industries in Lebanon for food safety professionals.”  

The certificate, which is the first of its kind in Lebanon, has been endorsed by the Ministry of Industry, the Syndicate of Lebanese Food Industrialists and the General Union of Arab Chambers.  Hassan explains that the program is composed of two levels focusing on the essentials of food safety and food safety management systems, respectively. The completion of both levels, he adds, requires six days of training.

“This new certificate allows students who are learning theory at school to take these courses and create a bridge between what they learn versus what they could apply,” says CEP Director Michel Majdalani. “The program is open to the public and does not require any advanced scientific skills,” he adds.

Still, the requirements are not the same for all students seeking certification. “Those who do not have any food safety knowledge are required to start with the certificate’s level one, but our nutrition students can start directly with level two because their degree covers the material given in level one,” Hassan explains.

In his view, participants in the course stand to reap great benefits: “We did a survey covering 50 different food industries and we found out that most of them are willing to pay higher salaries for applicants with a food safety certificate. Moreover, the certificate is accredited because it is issued by LAU so it would add value for its holders anywhere in the world.”  

The launching of CEP’s Food Safety Certificate could not have come at a better time. Food safety has become a prime issue of public health concern in Lebanon due to the increasing incidents of food borne diseases in the last few years. The far reaching problems prompted Health Minister Wael Abou Faour to launch a nationwide campaign in November 2014 in a bid to crackdown on establishments revealed to be selling contaminated meat, poultry and other foods.

“The ministry’s campaign highlighted gaps in Lebanese food industries,” says Hassan. “The quality programs followed by these industries are not enough. One of the reasons is that they only rely on knowledge acquired from regular degrees in sciences without any additional trainings or courses in food safety,” he adds.

Hassan believes that applying proper food safety measures in Lebanon requires the implementation of a food safety law.

“Following the implementation of such a law, an authority like FDA in the U.S. would be created to supervise all food safety activities in the country,” says Hassan.

A sweeping new food safety draft law that aims to reform the way the government handles food safety issues was approved by Parliament’s Joint Committees in January, but its final passage is still pending.

Majdalani believes that the success of this new law depends on how it will be implemented. “Usually any new law makes an immediate impact in the first couple of months and then it winds back,” he says.  “A campaign should be launched once the law is enacted to draw the attention to its importance and added value to citizens,” he adds.

For more information contact CEP at 01-786456 ext.: 1953


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