Relevant agencies under the Ministry of Public Health have been told to accelerate the policy of upgrading the standards of Thai food and products ahead of the arrival of the ASEAN Community.
Public Health Minister Wittaya Buranasiri said that emphasis would be placed on products under the “One Tambon One Product,” or “OTOP,” program and all kinds of processed, cooked, and ready-to-eat foods.
Minister Wittaya explained that these products should be upgraded to the primary good manufacturing practice (GMP) standards. GMP is a component of quality assurance at the processing level to warrant that products are consistently produced and controlled to meet the quality standards appropriate to their intended use.
GMP, defined by law and under surveillance of the Ministry of Public Health, comprises seven categories: locations and buildings; equipment and machinery; production and processing control; sanitation; maintenance and cleaning; personnel; and sanitary operations. These categories also cover operations in food production, packaging, and storage under sanitary conditions to safeguard against contamination as well as health hazards, and to ensure safe consumption.
Minister Wittaya assigned the Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Medical Services to provide training for entrepreneurs in all provinces. This would assure Thai and ASEAN citizens that they would be offered safe and quality food. He said that the products certified by the GMP standards would be distributed for sale at shopping complexes and convenience stores in Thailand and other ASEAN countries. He believed that GMP certification would increase Thailand’s income by at least 100 billion baht annually.
The Secretary-General of the Food and Drug Administration, Mr. Pipat Yingseree, said that there are currently about 20,000 OTOP producers across the country, or 200-300 in each province on average. He said that the Food and Drug Administration allowed provincial public health offices to issue certificates to the OTOP entrepreneurs whose products were upgraded to GMP. Around 400 entrepreneurs have so far received these certificates after they attended training and developed their products up to the standards.
Meanwhile, the Permanent Secretary for Public Health, Mr. Paijit Warachit said that the Ministry of Public Health is preparing to produce more doctors and other health personnel in preparation for medical service liberalization, when ASEAN becomes a single community in 2015.
The Yingluck Shinawatra administration has a policy to develop Thailand as a medical hub in Asia. In response to this policy, the Ministry of Public Health has mapped out a strategic plan, 2012-2016, on the development of Thailand into an international medical hub. The plan is intended to cope with more health investment, in preparation for the soon-to-be ASEAN Community.