The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is hosting a food safety conference for regulators from countries throughout the Middle East and North Africa.

The conference, to be held in Cairo Sept. 20-22, will familiarize regulators with the food safety systems in the United States and the Middle East and North Africa region. U.S. and regional food safety system, highlight fundamentals of food systems rooted in regulatory science, and cover such topics as company registration, inspection, surveillance and risk assessment. It will focus on promoting dialogue among food regulators and include presentations from participating governments. Egypt-based international food producers will also share with the regulators their experience with using regional supply chain management for food safety in production. After the conference, U.S. experts will participate in a workshop held by the American Chamber of Commerce in Egypt.

More than 20 countries have been invited to the event sponsored by the FDA Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Regional Office, which currently operates out of the United States but will formally establish a presence in the region in 2011.

“We are very excited about this conference, the information sharing that will be an outgrowth of this event, and the forging of relationships with regulators from this important region,” said Commissioner of Food and Drugs Margaret Hamburg, M.D. “Through venues such as this and by expanding our presence in the region, we can begin the process of understanding other systems, harmonizing standards, and sharing scientific data and emerging technologies, which will ultimately benefit the global food supply.”

“This region has very vibrant economies and products that are sought after around the world,” said Matthew Tueller, deputy chief of mission at the U.S. embassy in Cairo.

The FDA will send scientists and regulators from its Office of Regulatory Affairs (inspectorate), its Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, its Center for Veterinary Medicine, and its Office of International Programs. Other U.S. government organizations participating include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. A World Health Organization expert will also be presenting at the conference.

Officials from selected countries will share their successes and challenges in establishing regulations for food safety and managing inspections and surveillance within their jurisdiction.

“We are global citizens in a global economy with a shared responsibility to help ensure that the foods we eat and feed our families have undergone the most rigorous of scientific reviews and inspection. We are eager to collaborate with our counterparts to help protect and promote public health, not only in the United States but around the world,” said Murray Lumpkin, M.D., the FDA’s deputy commissioner for international programs. “This is a major step toward greater engagement with our Middle East and North Africa counterparts, the beginning of what we hope will be long-standing cooperation.”