KINGSTON — Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Hon. Dr. Christopher Tufton, is urging companies exporting food into the international market to get certified.
He said that the United States (US) has given notice, through legislation passed earlier this year that food exporters must be certified to international standards for their goods to be allowed into the country.
The Minister was speaking to the press on September 1 after a tour of the Pickapeppa factory in Shooter’s Hill, Manchester.
The US recently passed the Food Safety Modernization Act, which requires that by 2012, all processed foods entering the country must be tested by an accredited laboratory.
As a result of this legislation, Dr. Tufton said that local food processors and laboratories that test food for export now have less than a year to meet the requirements of the new US food safety law.
He said that checks with the Jamaica Exporters Association suggests that less than 20 per cent of its membership, who are currently exporting food-related items into the US market are certified.
“If this law is strictly enforced, then what you are going to find is that you could run into a situation where a number of companies that are currently exporting may not be allowed to export,” he pointed out.
Dr. Tufton acknowledged that the process of getting accredited can be costly, due to the infrastructural changes that are required to meet food safety standards.
He noted that quality management systems can range from $1.5 million in a small company to as much as $8 million in a large organisation. However, through the National Certification Body of Jamaica (NCBJ), local companies can be certified to international requirement at a cost that is 33 per cent less than what most overseas accreditation bodies charge.
The Minister said he has asked the Bureau of Standards to look at a programme that would create awareness and also fast track the certification process. “We are going to be talking to the EX-IM bank to see to what extent they can provide a window, and other financial institutions to support the cost of that programme, because it is an expensive exercise,” he stated.
In the meantime, Dr. Tufton commended the operators of the Pickapeppa factory, which will be Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) certified within a few weeks.
“I want to commend them for the effort they have been making. They are one of our more famous brands, tried, tested and proven for many years, and hopefully, they will be an example for others to follow,” he stated.
The Pickapeppa Company Limited has been operating from its small factory in Shooter’s Hill since 1921, when its famous pepper sauce recipe was developed and first marketed among local gourmet connoisseurs.
By Latonya Linton, JIS Reporter