JIS News

Minister of Health, Horace Dalley has said that the establishment of an interim governing body for independent scientific advice on food safety was crucial.
This he said was in light of global concerns regarding food safety, particularly in the tourism sector.
Mr. Dalley, who was speaking at the launch of the Food Advisory Committee (FAC) at the Ministry of Health’s King Street offices on (Oct. 18) said, “the most important thing in my mind is to get the information out to the public as to how it is that we have to protect ourselves in terms of food safety”.
He said this was crucial because of the country’s dependence on tourism and the fact that food was a main feature of this industry. Citing the recent case of spinach food poisoning in the United States, and how expeditiously the authorities had addressed the matter, Mr. Dalley said the Health Ministry was working to avoid any such situation in Jamaica by implementing safeguard measures.
The FAC, which is governed by the Food Safety Act, includes representatives from the Ministry of Health, Agriculture and Lands and the Ministry of Industry, Technology, Energy and Commerce, as well as the Jamaica Agricultural Society, with legal support from the Attorney General’s office.
In delivering his charge to the Committee of more than 20 members, the Health Minister emphasised that the terms of reference, which will guide the decisions of the Committee, should not be exhaustive.
“Whatever you think is important to protect our citizens, put it forward, whether they are in the terms of reference or not. Don’t be straight-jacketed by what is written there. We here are very flexible, as one objective we have at the Ministry of Health is to protect the people of Jamaica,” he said.
Meanwhile, Chief Medical Officer in the Ministry of Health, Dr. Sheila Campbell-Forrester acknowledged that “we must admit that new things are happening. In fact we are quite aware that we are in an age where genetic engineering for instance is a science that affects what we eat, and that we still do not have sufficient information where that is concerned”.
Noting that the FAC’s role therefore, would go beyond food safety and “encapsulate the big picture”, she said the body would focus on “animal health, plant health, nutrition, so the scope of this committee is appropriate”.
Dr. Campbell-Forrester said the FAC would be essential to government and private sector authorities with the scientific basis for policy and legislation. “We should also see policy as not only beginning with the Ministry of Health,” she said.
The interim governing body, which will be chaired by former Executive Director of the Bureau of Standards Jamaica, Dr. Artnel Henry, will be in place for three years.