"A new international food assistance convention will come into force on January 1 next year after the European Union ratified it this week, but critics say it lacks teeth," AlertNet reports. "The significance of the new Food Assistance Convention is that it marks a shift away from traditional food aid -- sacks transported from overseas and handed out on the ground by relief workers," the news service writes, adding the new convention says food distribution should be undertaken only when necessary, with cash or vouchers otherwise being distributed for people to purchase food within their own communities. "The new convention -- negotiated by the E.U. and 35 countries (the E.U. states plus Argentina, Australia, Canada, Croatia, Japan, Norway, Switzerland, and the United States) -- also underlines the importance of linking short- and longer-term food assistance efforts, to enable people to become better prepared for future disasters or high food prices," AlertNet states.