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Chief Technical Director in the Ministry of Agriculture and Lands, Don McGlashan, has pledged the Ministry’s commitment to providing safe food and addressing food safety concerns.
“With our private and public sector counterparts, we intend to provide safe food for citizens, visitors and the export market,” he stated at a Food Safety Forum held yesterday (May 2) at the Terra Nova Hotel in Kingston.
Information from the Ministry indicates that Jamaica’s record in food safety is noteworthy. However, in a globalised environment, there are threats from the transmission of food-borne microbial pathogens from developed and developing countries.
Mr. McGlashan pointed out that addressing the gaps in Jamaica’s food safety programme is of utmost importance if the country is to be well informed and updated on current issues, concerns and requirements in the sector.
Some of the gaps he highlighted were: participation in international forums; administration of, and compliance with international agreements; capacity building in risk assessment and risk management techniques; legislative overlaps and providing accredited laboratory testing facilities.
“Testing facilities used for food safety analysis must comply with global requirements for international trade, and to achieve this status, considerable work will have to be done to upgrade local testing facilities,” he stated.
He noted further that food safety issues, which are to be implemented, must be supported by appropriate competencies and skills.
Meanwhile, measures have been put in place to address the concerns of the industry, including the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in 2005 to deal with areas such as regulation and inspection of food establishments, inspection of imported food and inspection of food for local consumption and export.
The signatories were the Ministries of Health, and Industry, Technology, Energy and Commerce; the commodity boards and the private sector.
In addition, the Ministry of Agriculture hosts the Animal Health Core Group as a functionary within the Agriculture Support Services Project (ASSP), with the objective of monitoring and reviewing animal health status nationally, regionally and internationally, and to act as an information resource on trade in animals, animal by-products and food-borne diseases and the implications on production systems.
The forum, which was hosted by the Agriculture Ministry under the theme: ‘Food Safety – from farm to fork’, engaged meat producers and processors in discussion on manufacturing practices and food safety standards for the European Union (EU) market.
The stakeholders also used the opportunity to discuss the production environment, plant quarantine and its contribution to food safety, worker health, and the role of the Bureau of Standards in farming and food processing.