Food-borne diseases have threatened human health for centuries. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP), there is an alarming number of persons that are affected by foodborne diseases. It is estimated that one in six Americans (or 48 million people) gets sick, 128,000 are hospitalised, and 3,000 die of food-borne diseases each year.
Countries have varying regulatory bodies that preside over the definition and enforcement of domestic food-safety standards. In Jamaica, the Food Safety Modernisation Branch (FSMB) of the Bureau of Standards Jamaica (BSJ) is the focal point for the coordination of activities in support of Jamaica’s preparedness for the United States Food and Drug Administration, commonly known as the FDA, inspections.
These inspections are to ensure that local facilities exporting to the United States follow the requirements and regulations of the Food Safety Modernisation Act (FSMA) which ensures that the US food supply is safe, by shifting the focus to preventing contamination of the food supply rather than responding to it.
Coordinator of the FSMB at the BSJ, Sherieka Satchell Knight, says that the FDA conducts inspections of food facilities to identify potential food-safety problems before the products arrive in the US.
In creating an understanding of the reason for inspections, she says: “One of the things that we would never want to hear is that a facility here in Jamaica has been traced back as the source of a particular food-borne outbreak. As such, the FDA has put systems
in place to ensure that issues are identified before the food arrives in the US.” She was speaking at a recent sensitisation session hosted by the BSJ.
In preparation for inspections, the BSJ provides information regarding market access requirements to companies that are interested in exporting food through the FSMB and their Regional and International Office, free of cost.
Mrs. Satchell Knight explains that training is offered by the BSJ, through its Quality Institute, which provides additional laboratory and calibration services aimed at helping facilities meet the various FDA requirements for their food as well as their equipment.
However, this aspect of the training and the testing service come at a cost.
“There are courses that focus on the FDA requirements under the regulations that food manufacturers and processors must meet. So, in going through the materials of these courses, participants are learning about the requirements and how they can be met,” she expresses.
The FSMB Coordinator continues by saying that those participants are being equipped with information that will be needed to show compliance during an inspection.
Some of the programmes offered by the BSJ through the Quality Institute are training in the Preventive Controls Qualified Individuals (PCQI), Good Manufacturing Practices and Good Agricultural Practices.
Persons interested in a one-on-one in preparation for an FDA inspection may submit their request to the BSJ. A representative from the Bureau will make contact and a needs assessment done to outline what areas are to be addressed for the inspection. A facility visit will be scheduled to provide feedback on an entity’s readiness for an FDA inspection based on the findings.
For more information on the Bureau’s FSMB, please visit https://www.bsj.org.jm/food-safety-modernization-secretariat-fsms.