Myanmar’s food and safety regulations are woefully behind international standards, a gap that could harm not only the country’s public health but also its economy, industry sources say.
“Food safety standards must be implemented in every country, but there is no standard in Myanmar. This makes it difficult when we are importing and exporting foodstuffs, because we have no standard for safety when it comes to regulating food,” said Daw Toe Nandar Tin, a spokesperson for Anawa Devi Fishing and General Trading Company Ltd.
She went on to say that when a consumer does not know what they are eating, their health is put at risk – particularly those with food allergies.
“Fish and meat in open-air markets are especially dirty. There are a lot of flies, mice and insects. Authorities do not take the proper action and vendors sell unclean food because not only is there no food safety standard, but no food safety law. If food safety standard were regarded, then we could take action against unclean food.
“In local food shops on the roadside, there is little safety but Myanmar people are used to it. If foreigners eat that food, they will often get sick,” she said.
The lack of food safety even extends beyond the restaurant and into the home.
“Myanmar people rarely take safety into account when they cook or eat at home. A lot of food brought into homes is bought from dirty butchers and it is not packed safely,” said Dr Khin Hlaing, secretary of Myanmar Livestock Federation.
Experts say tighter regulations will enhance Myanmar’s economic power. Once Myanmar joins ASEAN in 2015, the country will be able to take part in the Asian Free Trade Agreement.
Once free from international quotas and tariffs, many food companies are hoping local cuisine could become one of Myanmar’s booming exports.
“When [we enter] AFTA, a lot of countries will trade with Myanmar. At that time, we have to be ready for food safety standards in order to be able compete with foreign countries,” said Dr Khin Hlaing.