A national body to control the hygienic handling of food on its journey from the farm to the table is being called for, following reports which show that agricultural commodities often fall short of food safety standards.

Songsak Srianujata, manager of the Knowledge Network Institute of Thailand’s Food Safety Project, said yesterday that food contamination is still an issue due to a lack of safety awareness among both the authorities and those involved in food production and processing.

According to Songsak, contamination can take place at every step of the food chain, from the farms, where farmers still use huge amounts of chemicals, to transportation and storage processes, which are often unhygienic, right up until the processing and sales stages.

He referred to the latest research from Mahidol Univer-sity’s Institute of Nutrition, which found that 90 per cent of pork available in 36 fresh markets in Bangkok and the vicinity was contaminated with salmonella bacteria, which can cause cholera. He added that the contamination could also have come from cutting boards, knives and even the hands of individuals selling the pork.

"We can assume that the contamination begins at the slaughter house where waste and pork might not be separated, or intestines might be mixed with pork in the same containers. Without guidelines, the possibility of contamination continues throughout the process until the meat is handed over to the consumers," he said.

"How can we be the world’s kitchen if we still have a problem with food safety?" he added.