JIS News

The Bureau of Standards Jamaica (BSJ) is developing a scale and colour chart to illustrate the ripening process of the ackee and indicate when it is ready for reaping.
The move comes on the heels of the recent refusal of several cases of processed ackee by the United States, due to the high levels of the toxin, hypoglycin found in the product.
“We will be using the scale and the colour chart in educating the suppliers, farmers and receivers at the factory, about what to look for to ensure they are accepting or reaping the properly matured fruit,” explained Standards and Certification Officer, Jennifer Aquart.
Ms. Aquart, who was speaking at an ackee educational workshop held on Monday (March 20) at the Farmer’s Training Centre in Twickenham Park, St. Catherine, informed that the chart should be completed within the next two weeks and would be reviewed and approved by the Agro Processors Association and Executive Director at BSJ, Dr. Omer Thomas, before distribution.
The colour chart will depict the stages of the ripening of ackees, from the blossom to the matured fruit, and have pictures corresponding to each stage.
Apart from the development of the chart for use in the educational process, Ms. Aquart said that the BSJ would be issuing specific instructions to processors on the ripening of ackees, even though they were aware of the regulations under the 1957 Process Food Act and the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) system.
“We are just expanding on it and ensuring that the receival part of the process is monitored carefully,” she said.
The Standards and Certification Officer pointed out that although the BSJ was responsible for monitoring ackee processors, especially those under the HACCP system, the processors have a responsibility to ensure that the product was safe. She said that investigations have revealed that some processors were purchasing ackees from suppliers, who have not adhered to the process for the ripening of the fruit.
“All of us have to work together, the farmer, suppliers, the regulatory agencies to ensure that we keep the industry viable and it is a very fragile industry. One of us mess up and everybody suffers,” Ms. Aquart stated.
She noted further, that ackee processors must ensure that they were receiving fruits at the proper stage. She pointed out that the hypoglycin in the fruit was high during the early stage but the levels dropped as the fruit matured. However, she said that studies have shown that the hypoglycin content increased just before the product was about to be cracked opened.
“So, we have to be very careful because when you think that just as it is beginning to open, it is safe and could be ripped open, that’s a very dangerous point,” Ms. Aquart explained, noting that after the fruit has fully ripened, “the hypoglycin levels drops again and the fruit is safe for consumption”.
The ackee workshop was organized by the St. Catherine Association of Branches Societies of the Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS) in association with the BSJ and was attended by ackee farmers, JAS and Rural Agricultural Development Authority representatives and other stakeholders in the ackee industry. Ackee processors in St. Catherine are Central Packers, Ashman Food Processing, and Jamaica Treat.