Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Roger Clarke, has asked the Bureau of Standards Jamaica to work with the relevant agencies to formulate a comprehensive set of standards for key food items.
This, Mr. Clarke says, arises from concerns about the quality of foods Jamaicans are consuming.
“The level of sodium in some of our imported foods is frightening. The sugar content of some of the snacks – particularly imported ones – that our students consume in our schools, is equally alarming,” the Minister said, as he made his contribution to the 2013/14 Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives on May 8.
“We have a responsibility to safeguard our nation’s health and by the same token keep out unsavoury imports and provide opportunities for increased production of wholesome local foods and snacks,” Mr. Clarke added.
Meanwhile, he pointed out that the Government has made considerable strides in overhauling the country’s food health and safety infrastructure, in order to safeguard public health. Among these measures is Cabinet’s approval of the Food Safety and Implementation Plan.
“Within the framework of this plan, we will rationalise the institutional arrangements and the legislative framework for food safety management, as this responsibility is now dispersed across several Ministries. In this regard, the Veterinary Services Division and the Plant Quarantine Division of this Ministry will be appropriately strengthened,” he explained.
The Ministry is also undertaking an aggressive programme to have all its labs accredited. Meanwhile, $50 million has been spent on equipping veterinary laboratories. Members of staff have also undergone extensive training, both locally and abroad, while critical manuals have been prepared.
As it relates to facilitating exports, the Ministry is currently upgrading the Agricultural Marketing Corporation (AMC) complex to meet United States Food Safety Modernisation Act (FSMA) standards. To this end, last year two export complexes were improved at a cost of $16 million.
“These initiatives have supported the increase in exports,” the Minister said.
“Under the US$15 million IDB Agricultural Competitiveness Project, significant resources have been committed to food safety, and we are actively pursuing an initiative to partner with a private entity to establish a modern multi-species abattoir in Westmoreland from the resources of this project.” he informed.
Contact: Alphea Saunders