CFNI and Health Ministry Launch Food Safety Campaign


In light of the high number of cases of food-borne illnesses affecting Jamaican households during the last six months, the Caribbean Food and Nutrition Institute (CFNI) in collaboration with Ministry of Health, has launched a Food Safety Public Education Campaign, to educate the public about proper food hygiene.
The Campaign, launched yesterday (Feb. 24) at the University of Technology, will initially focus on the parishes of Kingston and St. Andrew, St. Catherine, and St. Ann, and will run for a period of two months beginning next week.
Director of the CFNI, Dr. Fitzroy J. Henry informed persons at the launch that a study had indicated that eight per cent of Jamaican households had experienced at least one bout of food-borne illness in the last six months. This he said, was an average of 10,000 episodes of diarrhoea every month from poor food hygiene alone. “I believe this is 10,000 cases too many,” Dr Henry said.
As a result the campaign will focus on food handling, which covers washing of hands with soap, disinfecting the food preparation area and the handling of leftover foods. It will also target the surrounding environment and the barring of domestic animals from the kitchen. Thirdly, the campaign will focus on the improvement of pest control, increasing awareness of risks and improving the knowledge of symptoms and illness.
According to Dr. Henry, statistics show that 26 percent of Jamaicans do not wash their hands with soap after handling raw meat or poultry, while 53 per cent did not handle leftover foods properly. The study further shows that half of Jamaican households have uncovered garbage bins in the kitchen and 30 per cent allow domestic animals to enter kitchen. “We have to be vigilant to ensure that we break the barrier between these contaminating sources and our food and water,” Dr. Henry said. He pointed out that the Caribbean was the most tourism dependent region in the world, and that a profitable hospitality industry and tourism growth, were dependent on healthy food safe systems. “The transition from upscale tourism by the seaside to community based tourism with festivals for curry, fish, jerk, seafood, roti means that food safety at the household level can impact heavily on the health of the tourist trade as well as on the health of all us,” he said.
Another area of concern raised was the region’s ability to monitor the infections and also to investigate outbreaks. Currently the system available in the Caribbean was a passive surveillance system that requires much transformation, Dr. Henry observed
The US$60,000 budget for the campaign does not allow the campaign to be taken into parishes other than the three focus parishes, he explained. “I wish we had the resources to have a prolonged campaign across all parishes in Jamaica,” he said.
However, given the limited resources, the campaign will culminate in intensive activities during the last week of April. The entire nation will be sensitised through print articles, radio and television interviews, a poster competition for secondary schools and an essay competition for primary schools.
Meanwhile, during Food Safety Week, which will be observed toward the end of April, there will be food health fairs in the three focus parishes. The fairs will feature several booths exhibiting products and literature by various public and private sector entities and agencies.
There will also be oral and video presentation sessions, distribution of prizes to the winners of the school competitions as well as special talks at schools and town meetings. Several features will also be published in the national newspapers. Both the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health have endorsed the campaign.

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