Under the patronage and in the presence of H.E. Minister of Environment Tariq al-Khatib, the Faculty of Nursing and Health Sciences (FNHS) at Notre Dame University-Louaize (NDU) organized on May 22, 2017, in Friends Hall, a conference titled, “Food Safety and Environmental Toxins and Current Challenges in Lebanon.”
FNHS Dean Dr. Antoine Farhat delivered the welcome note, remarking that no food is free of risk. "What should concern us and what we should focus on are the many other aspects of food safety, such as exposure to heavy metal toxicity and other toxic elements present in the entire food chain.”
Dr. Farhat hoped the conference would draw attention to the following recommendations:
1. Develop and enact legislation into the consumer protection law;
2. Consult on legislative bills with specialized academic institutions and research centers;
3. Expedite the establishment of a Lebanese Food Safety Authority;
4. Develop awareness programs aimed at significantly shifting consumer behavior;
5. Improve technical, supervisory, and training capacities;
6. Enforce effective measures against non-compliant institutions; and
7. Assist municipalities in their oversight function.
For his part, NDU President Fr. Walid Moussa said, “For the food and beverages industry to survive in light of increasing public awareness of food safety issues, companies must start seeking professional assistance to help them develop and implement quality assurance programs."
Fr. Moussa added that the FNHS, with the full support of NDU, has actively started to contribute in this area through its academic programs and through scientific conferences. He also noted that following approval by the Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MEHE), the Faculty has been offering since September 2015 bachelors and master's degrees in Food Safety and Quality Management.
In his speech, Minister Al-Khatib applauded the conference recommendations and promised to work on implementing them in the Ministry of Environment given the environmental challenges facing Lebanon today.
The minister said, "We are determined to start finding and implementing appropriate solutions, in partnership with good people with good intentions, especially since we know that our lives depend on the essential elements in our environment: the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the soil in which we plant our food.”
He added, “It is necessary, therefore, that a person remains healthy, and that our customs and laws are not the cause for undermining public health; rather, our customs and laws must be based on precaution and must be consistent with the laws of nature to ensure a thriving environment that supports healthy food and water, a healthy atmosphere, and healthy people. In short, a healthy environment is the pillar needed to support an enlightened society on the path to development.”
Director of the Fluoride Action Network (FAN), and Executive Director of the American Environmental Health Studies Project (AEHSP) Professor Paul Connett addressed the subject from a scientific perspective and shared his wealth of information on the harmful effects of fluoride and fluoridation. He demonstrated how fluoride causes tooth and bone damage; how it negatively affects thyroid function; how it accumulates in the pineal gland; and how it causes brain damage, which in some cases leads to death.
Following the conference, a roundtable discussion, moderated by Dr. Roula Basbous, was held with H.E. former Minister of Interior and Municipalities Ziad Baroud who discussed the legal aspects as well as H.E. MP Dr. Atef Majdalani, H.E. MP Amal Bouzaid, and specialists in the field. In conclusion, an agreement was signed to repeal Law 178.