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Food Safety and Foodborne Disease Surveillance Systems: Proceedings of An Iranian-American Workshop Opening Session Dr. Mohammadreza Razailashkajani Research Center for Gastroenterology and Liver Disease Shaheed Beheshti University of Medical Sciences The opening session began with a recitation of verses from the Holy Koran, followed by a rendition of Iran’s national anthem. Professor Peyravi, the chancellor of Shaheed Beheshti University of Medical Sciences, was the first to welcome the workshop guests and participants. He highlighted the scientific importance and economic impact of food safety issues and the necessity for international collaboration in improving many aspects of food safety. Professor Mohammad Reza Zali, the president of the Research Center for Gastroenterology and Liver Disease, welcomed the guests and participants on behalf of the main host of the workshop. He spoke of the great burden that foodborne diseases annually impose on human health and the global economy. Dr. Zali stated that although food safety concerns traditionally focus on end products, a more comprehensive approach is needed, one that covers the “farm to fork” spectrum. He called for multidisciplinary cooperation in all aspects of food safety at both the national and international levels and expressed the hope that opportunities such as the workshop would attract the support of the relevant parties in his country. Mr. Glenn Schweitzer, program director at the U.S. National Academies, referred to this workshop as a highly significant and ambitious activity. He stressed that the exchange of views among experts from Iran and the United States would contribute to a richer global perspective on food safety. Pointing to the so far insufficient contributions of countries in the Middle East to the international
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Food Safety and Foodborne Disease Surveillance Systems: Proceedings of An Iranian-American Workshop food safety dialogue, he commended the technical competence of Iranian scientists and their enthusiasm for the topic, as well as Dr. Zali’s perseverance in organizing this important venue to consider a topic of increasing international importance. Dr. Abdorrashid, the Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO’s) representative in Iran, underlined the economic and scientific importance of food safety in the world today. He declared that many developing countries not only suffer from outbreaks of foodborne and zoonotic diseases but also incur severe economic losses due to rejection of their food exports because these are not in compliance with international standards. He also mentioned that Iran has made considerable progress toward achieving international standards and developing effective food safety systems. Emphasizing the importance of international collaboration, he listed four international projects on food safety that were joint endeavors of the FAO and Iran’s Ministry of Jihad-e-Agriculture. Finally, he called for more awareness of food safety issues by regulatory bodies and expressed the hope for increased attention to the cultural aspects of this topic. Dr. Rajab-beygi, the representative of Iran’s Ministry of Jihad-e-Agriculture, stated that recent agricultural advances have raised new challenges in food safety. These include problems associated with foodborne pathogens, heavy metals, and residues of agricultural and veterinary drugs that can compromise public health. He added that the Ministry of Jihad-e-Agriculture in collaboration with the FAO is developing new strategies in food safety and is working toward a more holistic approach. He also declared that Iran is trying to establish an effective food safety system and the Ministry of Jihad-e-Agriculture laboratories are now equipped with technologies for detecting and measuring drug residues and performing microtrace measurements. Dr. Gooya, the representative of the Center for Disease Control of Iran’s Ministry of Health, stressed the importance of collaboration between the Ministry of Health and the Research Center for Gastroenterology and Liver Disease in developing a surveillance system for foodborne diseases in Iran. Dr. Niño, an FAO consultant, expressed his gratitude to Dr. Zali and other organizers of the workshop and emphasized the important role of food and food safety as part of every nation’s life and culture. He pointed to the significance of the FAO/World Health Organization Codex Alimentarius, its special focus on food standards, and the important role of Iranian representatives on its committees.
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