The foodborne and waterborne disease continues to pose significant health problems in the Middle East. This region specifically Arabic speaking countries, imports large amounts of food products from all over the world. At the same time, this region exports a variety of food commodities to many countries worldwide. The increased international food trade, changes in agriculture production, food processing, and consumer demand for wholesome safe food have led to new food safety challenges which have impacted the food safety systems. There are country- and intra-country/subregional specific based food safety systems. The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is an example of a subregional coalition aimed at harmonizing their country-members' food safety standards based on Codex Alimentarius. There are a number of challenges and potential opportunities available for the Middle Eastern countries to enhance their food safety systems. These challenges include: 1) domestic and imported food inspection, 2) laboratory capacity and staff training, 3) foodborne surveillance systems, and 4) scientific research to support policies and regulations. Given these challenges, there are a number of opportunities to enhance food safety in the Middle East. These include: 1) Training of inspectors for domestic and imported food and making available a detailed and comprehensive manual to follow as a guideline in their daily work. This guideline would be a valuable aid especially to those with limited training. In addition, standard uniform methods for sampling and data collection would be needed, 2) building research institutions for food safety and quality research that supports laboratory capacity, surveillance, and data analysis, and 3) better risk assessment and communication is needed to focus on highest foodborne disease risks and to link the strategies to reduce those risks across the full food production chain. Special consideration should be given to certain situations in specific countries to overcome barriers of non-collaboration among disciplines and responsible agencies.


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