Introduction conventions or/and national laws. However, the intentional

 Introduction 

T

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he contemporary world market offers a wide range of
food diversity. Manifold materials are used as ingredients. The permission on
materials used are regulated by the international conventions or/and national
laws. However, the intentional or unintentional violations of the
aforementioned laws by the producers bring forth public health issues,
oftentimes ending up with fatal impact. The so called public “illiteracy” of
food safety and their rights as consumers is not a factor of less importance. World Health Organization of the
United Nations’ publication on foodborne diseases brings up a fact that 1 out
of 10 deaths in the world is caused by foodstuff annually. (www.who.int 2015) The public awareness
and protection of consumer rights is one way of escaping from the negative
effects caused by food. Manifold media publications, as well as day to day
conversations and people’s complaints cast a spotlight on this issue, keeping
it on the discussion table on a permanent basis. As stated on the official
website of the WHO, ‘Improving food safety is thus a key in achieving Sustainable Development
Goals. Governments should make food safety a public health priority, as they
play a pivotal role in developing policies and regulatory frameworks,
establishing and implementing effective food safety systems that ensure that
food producers and suppliers along the whole food chain operate responsibly and
supply safe food to consumers.’ (www.who.int 2017) The ground issue of the current
paper is the unawareness of the Armenian consumer of his/her rights
substantiated by the “Social Survey on Food Safety Public Awareness” carried
out by Agriculture Project Implementation Unit of the State Agency of the RA
Ministry of Agriculture, confirmed by the World Bank, as well as media
publications. We strongly believe that Armenia, having a set of shortcomings in
the mentioned field, cannot have its contribution to the WHO mission by staying
in a complete inaction and not setting public awareness of food safety and
consumer rights as a priority issue. As known, public health is the cornerstone
of the country’s dynamic and stable development in all layers of its activity.
Notwithstanding that the government holds sessions on this topic, in our
opinion, practical and uninterrupted steps towards raising the awareness of
food safety and consumer rights lack. Brief Review on Food Safety
and Consumer Rights Situation in ArmeniaThe food safety in Armenia is regulated by the “Law on
Food Safety of the Republic of Armenia”, adopted in 2014. This law regulates
the safety matters of the materials being in an immediate connection with food,
the service in public catering and trade, food chain, as well as defines the
guarantees of the state protection of human health from dangerous effects of
the materials in an immediate connection with food.1
(National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia 2014)   In Armenia consumer rights are stipulated by the “Law
on the Protection of Consumer Rights of the Republic of Armenia” which entered
into force in 2002. The mentioned law regulates the relations between the
consumers and the producers or sellers, the issues arisen during selling or
buying process, protects their rights of being informed of the quality of the
goods they are sold to and of the acquisition of products not threatening their
life, as well as secures the implementations of the mechanisms of the mentioned
rights. (National Assmbly of the Republic
of Armenia 2002)
Article 41 allows public organizations to implement the defense of the consumer
rights pursuant to the legislation of the Republic of Armenia.  The government authorizes the national entities with
undertaking the checking measures of the aforementioned two fields.2
The names of the state entities conducting checks and giving permits on the
usage of this or that material, on releasing a product to market, etc., are
defined by the “Law on the Organization and Implementation of Checks in the
Republic of Armenia”, Article 2, adopted in 2000.3
(National Assembly of the
Republic of Armenia 2000) Armenia signed an agreement of membership with the
Eurasian Economic Union in 2014, nonetheless, consumer rights protection will
be conducted by the legislation of the Republic of Armenia. (The Republic of Armenia 2014) The issues of
sanitary-hygienic resemblance will be made in line with the government of the
Republic of Armenia. (The Republic of Armenia 2014)4
 The main body engaged in the subject matters of our
discussion is the State Service for Food Safety of the Ministry of Agriculture
of the Republic of Armenia. It cooperates with the Eurasian economic union, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United
Nations (FAO), World Organization for Animal Health, Center for Agribusiness and Rural Development, International finance corporation (IFC), Twinning
(EU 21-month term project) and EU Advisory Group. 5
Various NGOs are in place providing
constant information to Armenian citizens about their rights as consumers and
endeavoring to raise the awareness about food safety, take “Protection of Consumer Rights” NGO, National Association of Consumers6, etc. As of 2008, the
President of the “Protection of Consumer
Rights” NGO, Abgar Yegoyan states that
the NGO has received approximately ‘250 claims on the quality of goods’. (ARKA News Agency 2008) The figures are the
proof of how the rights were violated still in 2008 and moreover, the
observations and surveys from 2014 and 2017 also depict a noteworthy situation
in Armenia which can be branched further in 2 separate paths: 1. The
unawareness of the Armenian public about their rights as consumers which is
brilliantly illustrated in the “Social Survey on Food Safety Public
Awareness” carried out by Agriculture Project Implementation Unit of the State
Agency of the RA Ministry of Agriculture, confirmed by the World Bank and 2.
Evident food insecurity around Armenia, clearly shown in the article entitled “Food
Safety Issues Still Present: Solution is Having Security Control Systems” in
which a food safety expert is interviewed, (Aslanyan 2017), regardless of the
continual guarantees from state entities that no issues are in place. 7
The survey mentioned above has
questioned 1066 across the whole territory of Armenia and found out that only
10% of its citizens know about the SSFS, which is the main body which protects
their rights as consumers, furthermore, only 1% was aware of the hotline
number. (The Minsitry of Agriculture of the Republic of Armenia 2015)8            Coming
to the second point, we should state that food safety is not secure in Armenia
and this is not news to any Armenian who walks out on the street. The
violations of food security are visible in every corner of the Republic of
Armenia, one solely needs to cast a look at the sellers standing nearby the
residential buildings. The mentioned is proven by David Pipoyan, a food safety
expert, who has conducted an interesting survey by inviting a specialist from
Italy in 2016 to check the chicken safety, targeting a supermarket to unveil
the difference between quality and non-quality products and how the consumer
could differentiate them from each other. (Aslanyan 2017) At the supermarket, which suggested a
wide range of chicken, the specialist could not find a sole sample of chicken
complying with even the lowest standards of having no visible defections. (Aslanyan 2017)            Besides,
the violations are present in educational institutions as well, putting the
health of even pre-school age children under threat because of ill nutrition
and insecure food. The SSFS Information and Public Relations Department has
reported that the Service has visited 948 elementary schools and institutions
of public educations, unveiling 292 violations and discrepancies.9
(ArmenPress News Agency 2017)              And
eventually, the figures listed on Table 1 evoke serious concerns on the
mechanisms which are undertaken to prevent violations in food safety field10.Table 1:

Year

Number
of Entrepreneurships Checked

Number
of Entrepreneurships with Violations

201111

76

73

 201212

219

194

201313

238

106

201414

728

422

201515

665

476

  The table shows that each year the number of the
entrepreneurships having violated at least 1 provision of the legal normative
has made up above the half of the number of the overall entrepreneurships. This
brings up a hypothesis that the consumer rights are violated by at least the
half of entrepreneurships, inasmuch as the Law on Consumer Rights of the
Republic of Armenia constitutes that the citizen has a right to receive a
quality good. Consequently, we can state that the violation of food safety leads
to the violation of consumer rights and therefore the issue discussed remains
of the utmost priority.        The
Relevance of the Current TopicThe relevance of the subject matter
of this brief is visible by solely the image of the present situation in
Armenia relative to food safety and consumer rights on which the previous
paragraph shed a light. Being highly conscious of the consequences of the
insecurity of food safety, continual violations by the entrepreneurs in line
with the high rates of unawareness of Armenian citizens of their rights as
customers, the current paper sets an objective of proving the highest
importance of the food safety and raising the awareness of Armenian citizens on
this topic as a priority issue through the prism of already listed reports and
media publications.    Analysis
on Food Safety and Consumer Rights Unawareness in ArmeniaAll provisions of food safety and consumer rights are
regulated by the Law of the Republic of Armenia and legal norms, as well as the
orders given by the entities or the officials authorized with specific
legitimacy by the state. However, the criticism on the ill function and
operation of these laws leaves a lot of space for complaints. Merely walking
through Tigran Mets Ave, Gum open market or around the open air stalls in
Malatia will make clear that dozens of provisions are broken by people who have,
as they state, no other choice but to make both ends meet by standing near the
stall and selling anything that comes at hand. To make it clearer, let us bring
up an example: the Law of the Republic of Armenia on Food Safety, Article 13,
Provision 2.2 implies that pursuant to the Legislation of the Republic of
Armenia, the people in immediate connection with food during its production or circulation
should be provided with medical examination by the food operators. However, the
aforementioned markets and the meat which is being sold in the open air and
touched by the sellers with their own hands is a proof that the food is
insecure and might contain bacteria. Besides, there is no guarantee where this
meat is taken from and what it contains in especially when 2015 Social Survey
reveled that the 47% of 1066 people both in Yerevan and Marzes are completely
unaware of food additives and the percentage of people knowing no hazardous and
toxic substances in fresh fruits and vegetables amounted to 48%. (AM Partners Consulting Company 2015) The existence of
these kinds of stalls is a practical evidence of the “illiteracy” of the
consumers and the inaction of state entities. The percentage of people who buy
meat from food-producing farmers and street traders accounts for 51%, which is
not a low percentage, regarding the threat this kind of product may bear. Of
course, it is difficult to regulate this massive field, especially when dealing
with human resources and regular observation aimed at revealing causes and
consequences of the shortcomings of this sphere. Nevertheless, external causes
of this situation are also in place: for example, the high prices of medical
examinations, equipment for the correct temperature for the given products.
Another external cause is the unemployment. In our opinion, people engage in
food trade, because food is an everyday human need. But there is a key factor in
this point, the sellers or the entrepreneurs themselves do not often have the
knowledge needed for the foodstuff they sell and do not possess information on
keeping instructions. Moreover, they advise the customers how to use or in what
conditions to keep the food they sell, if asked by them. We have witnessed such
cases by ourselves. There is similarly an issue in place, which is crucial
in this discussion and which stands on the crossroad of these 2 subject matters
– the education. We have already spoken about the cases of misinformation of
consumers by the traders and which might have unpredicted effect on the users,
however, why this threat is in place? Because of not proper inclusion of food
safety and consumer right in educational programs at all stages of both public
and private education. The unawareness of adults is more dangerous, forasmuch
as they bring up children unaware or misinformed, this is proven by the fact
that approximately the half of the respondents of the Social Survey were from
41 to 62 years old and they were unaware of the main body they should have
applied to when an issue would raise, besides, more than 50%, as already
stated, was unaware of contamination, food additives and toxic substances, etc.
(AM Partners Consulting Company 2015) And finally, the
last and more global approach to the issue – the missing civil consciousness
around the Armenian society. If the civil consciousness was awake inside
Armenians, they would have demanded protection of their rights as consumers,
which would have resulted in the raise of consciousness among people having no
knowledge in the sphere, and the chain would then continue until the healthcare
improvements and product quality increase. Conclusion
on Food Safety and Consumer Rights Issues in Armenia: Draft Solution BriefThe current paper unraveled the ways of the
regulations of food safety and consumer rights in Armenia, statistical data on
the current situation, as well as the opinion of the experts of the field
through media publications, bringing forth its relevance, discussing the
unawareness of the Armenian citizens of this field, substantiating it by 2015
Social Survey on Food Safety Public Awareness conducted by AM Partners
Consulting Company and funded by World Bank, in parallel enlisting the causes
of the shortcomings in food safety field and the high percentage of
unawareness, picturing the possible consequences. The in depth observations of the subject matter
brought about a comprehensive understanding of the causes and consequences of
the mentioned subject matter and this, in turn, brought forth a full
understanding of what the field lacks first and foremost. The package of
recommendation is as follows:·        
Urging the state entities and subjects responsible for carrying out
events aimed at food safety and consumer rights awareness spread, as well as
bodies responsible for making and publishing reports to work consistently and
develop nuanced mechanisms for their punishment in case of inaction. ·        
Development of a new comprehensive mechanism for providing food safety
and consumer rights awareness at governmental level in concert with new
technological advancement (a PR agency attached to the government for suchlike
matters would be encouraged).   ·        
Development of a new comprehensive mechanism for providing food safety
and consumer rights awareness at public level (NGOs, Youth organizations, etc.)
in concert with new technological advancement. 
·        
Undertaking constant measures towards raising the awareness about food
safety and consumer rights targeting all age-groups separately, adopting
precise policy for each group (e.g. commercials illustrating the consequences
of buying products from street trade venues, or simulation games at schools,
etc). ·        
Undertaking measures against illegal traders.·        
Undertaking measures aimed at adding to traders’ knowledge of the
product they sell.·        
Undertaking fair measures towards making all entrepreneurs and traders
of the Republic of Armenia comply with the sanitary-hygienic standards
stipulated by the Law of the Republic of Armenia. ·        
Undertaking measures aimed at raising the trust of consumers towards the
state entities responsible for the protection of their rights as consumers (for
example, monthly video-reports by the SSFS set on TV channels or at least
providing more profound information on the websites of the entities
responsible).·        
Inclusion of the current topic in the educational programs of all
stages. ·        
Conducting monthly “Did You Know?” 5 to 10 minute breaks in both state
institutions and private organizations, companies aimed at raising the
awareness among the adults. In our opinion, the institution responsible for the
implementation of the mentioned policy is the SSFS of the Ministry of
Agriculture of the Republic of Armenia, which, despite its ceaseless efforts,
should become more and more consistent as regards the health of the citizens of
the Republic of Armenia.      Bibliography1.       AM Partners Consulting
Company. “http://www.arspiu.com.” 06 2015. http://www.arspiu.com/uploads/media/5.1._Report__draft__Social_survey_on_food_safety_public_awareness__eng.pdf
(accessed 01 19, 2018).2.       ARKA News Agency.
arka.am. 04 16, 2008. http://arka.am/en/news/society/9004/ (accessed
01 19, 2018).3.       ArmenPress News
Agency. armenpress.am. 05 12, 2017.
https://armenpress.am/arm/news/890418/hanrapetutyan-8-marzerum-qnnarkvel-en-hanrakrtutyan.html
(accessed 01 19, 2018).4.       Aslanyan, Hakob. www.tert.am.
04 12, 2017. http://www.tert.am/am/news/2017/04/12/davit-pipoyan/2339143 (accessed
01 19, 2018).5.       National Assembly
of the Republic of Armenia. www.arlis.am. 06 21, 2014.
http://www.arlis.am/DocumentView.aspx?DocID=104105 (accessed 01 18, 2018).6.       —. www.arlis.am.
05 17, 2000. http://www.arlis.am/DocumentView.aspx?DocID=98292 (accessed 01
19, 2018).7.       National Assmbly
of the Republic of Armenia. www.arlis.am. 01 02, 2002.
http://www.arlis.am/DocumentView.aspx?DocID=98880 (accessed 01 19, 2018).8.       The Minsitry of
Agriculture of the Republic of Armenia. blogs.worldbank.org. 09 09,
2015. http://blogs.worldbank.org/europeandcentralasia/are-we-armenians-insecure-about-food-safety
(accessed 01 19, 2018).9.       The Republic of
Armenia. www.arlis.am. 10 10, 2014.
http://www.arlis.am/DocumentView.aspx?DocID=95214 (accessed 01 19, 2018).10.   www.who.int. www.who.int.
12 3, 2015.
http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2015/foodborne-disease-estimates/en/
(accessed 01 18, 2017).11.   —. www.who.int.
10 2017. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs399/en/ (accessed 01 18,
2018).  

1 Non-official translation of
the “Law on Food Safety of the Republic of Armenia” available at: http://www.parliament.am/law_docs/301299HO25eng.pdf?lang=eng

2 Article 2, “Law on Food Safety of the
Republic of Armenia”.

3 No English version available.

4 See Articles VII and VIII,
Provision 53, 54 and 55.

5 See SSFS Partnership at: http://snund.am/en/about/partnership/

6 http://www.armconsumer.am/about.html

7 http://yerevan.today/all/social/1710/snndamterki-anvtangutyan-lurj-xndirner-chkan, http://snund.am/%D5%BF%D5%A5%D5%B2%D5%A5%D5%AF%D5%A1%D5%BF%D5%BE%D5%A1%D5%AF%D5%A1%D5%B6-%D5%AF%D5%A5%D5%B6%D5%BF%D6%80%D5%B8%D5%B6/news/  

8 Full report available at http://www.arspiu.com/uploads/media/5.1._Report__draft__Social_survey_on_food_safety_public_awareness__eng.pdf

9 “Discrepancy Assessment Law
of the Republic of Armenia” 2004, still in power during the checking period,
available at http://www.arlis.am/DocumentView.aspx?DocID=74473 The monitoring
by Service inspectors is mentioned to have been conducted from March to April
and the Law has ceased to be in power since April 15.  

10 The figures are counted by
the author.

11 The report available at http://snund.am/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/stugumner_2011.pdf

12 The report available at http://snund.am/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/stugumner-2012.pdf

13 Data on 119 entrepreneurship
activity checks were missing. The report available at http://snund.am/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/stugumner-2013.pdf

14 Report download available at http://snund.am

15 Report download available at http://snund.am