The Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce, through the Bureau of Standards (BSJ), continues to work on a number of initiatives to assist local firms to become compliant with the requirements of the recently amended Food Safety Modernisation Act, says State Minister, Hon. Sharon Ffolkes-Abrahams.
Among the initiatives was a course of study approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) – Better Process Control School – which was conducted in January 2012, through the collaborative efforts of the BSJ and the University of the West Indies.
Mrs. Ffolkes-Abrahams, who was making her contribution to the 2012/13 Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives, on July 18, informed that the course had an 88.7 per cent success rate.
She noted that a second course would be held from July 16 to 20, with some 24 participants from Jamaican firms.
Other BSJ initiatives include the provision of 50 per cent discount on laboratory and other technical services, under agreements with Jamaica Promotions Corporation (JAMPRO) and the MSME Alliance; and the strengthening of the organisation’s food safety regulatory inspection procedures, by aligning food processing inspection approaches with the requirements of the United States Code of Federal regulations.
Mrs. Ffolkes-Abrahams informed that in continuing the support for the country’s food safety system, the BSJ now has the ability to test for Listeria Monocytogenes. The organism presents a serious food safety risk, as evidenced by outbreaks in Canada in 2008, resulting in 22 fatalities, and as recent as 2011 in the United States, with some 30 fatalities.
"This capability is a significant addition to the food safety arsenal in furthering our efforts to produce safe and wholesome products," she added.
The State Minister said these initiatives are critical as the safety of Jamaica's food supply is not only essential for the domestic market, but is equally important for food exports, which in 2011 had a value of some US$133.9 million.
"The United States, the main market for Jamaican foods, under the Food Safety Modernisation Act (January 2011), requires the implementation of more stringent food safety control systems by foreign suppliers of food," she explained.
"Failure to implement satisfactory preventive controls could result in many of our food exporters being unable to enter the US market, resulting in a loss of valuable foreign exchange and jobs," she pointed out.