By: Krizzia Mei C. Esperanza
Home-based and online food sellers were gathered virtually during the Department of Science and Technology – CALABARZON (DOST-CALABARZON) Webinar on Basic Food Hygiene and Orientation on the Use of Food Safety Self-Assessment Tool (FSSAT) last 22 December 2021. More than 100 attended the online event streamed via Zoom, which briefed the participants on fundamental food hygiene practices and promoted the use of the FSSAT.
Dir. Emelita P. Bagsit, DOST-CALABARZON Regional Director, in her welcome address referenced a January 2021 study conducted by Mariano Marcos State University which found that only 8.3% among the surveyed home-based food handlers met food safety standards. “With the industry projection of 12.4% annual growth of food e-commerce, we should be more cautious if our favorite online food business and their partner delivery service are knowledgeable and consistently practicing compliance to food safety regulations,” she said. Thus, to address this concern, the DOST-CALABARZON launched in November 2020 the FSSAT, a web application that assists persons engaged in the food industry to track their compliance to basic food hygiene.
To support the use of the application, Mr. Mhark Ellgine A. Libao, Science Research Specialist II in the DOST-Batangas, and member of the DOST-CALABARZON Food Safety Team, was invited to introduce and discuss basic food hygiene practices. Mr. Libao defined jargons in the food industry, cited food safety-related laws and regulations, outlined steps to secure sanitary permits, and detailed food hygiene guidelines.
Ms. Diane Z. Ulan, Science Research Specialist I and DOST-CALABARZON Food Safety Officer, presented the FSSAT, accessible at https://fssat.dostcalabarzon.ph. Due to the flux of “career shifters” or individuals that shifted into home-based and online food selling, the DOST-CALABARZON developed the FSSAT to ensure that food safety is practiced by local food entrepreneurs. The digital application provides a 46-item self-assessment checklist that covers the minimum requirements of food safety.
The DOST-CALABARZON Food Safety Team, with the assistance of the regional office’s Management Information Systems Unit, is upgrading the application to give users data analytics of their strengths and items for improvement. Currently in service for 100 users representing CALABARZON-based MSMEs, the FSSAT will soon be introduced to regulatory agencies such as the CALABARZON regional and provincial offices of the Department of Health and Local Government Units, to expand the reach of the application.
In his closing remarks, Engr. Francisco R. Barquilla III, DOST-CALABARZON OIC-Assistant Regional Director for Technical Operations, encouraged the participants to make use of the FSSAT to simplify their periodic monitoring of food safety compliance. “We are currently building an Android version of the website para mas maging accessible po sa inyong lahat. Kahit naroroon po kayo sa planta at naka-mobile phone ay magagamit n’yo po ang ating FSSAT—kahit tablet, smart phone ay ma-a-access n’yo s’ya. We plan to roll this out by the first quarter of 2022,” he added. Visit https://tinyurl.com/FSSATAccess to request for a log-in access account to the application.