Food Storage and Prevention of Infestation Division Looks to Build on 50 Years of Success


The Food Storage and Prevention of Infestation Division (FSPID), is seeking to build on 50 years of success, by putting measures in place to enhance its operations, and exploring ways in which it can execute its duties more effectively and efficiently.
“We will also be making representation to increase our staff complement, as well as our units into other areas of food safety… looking at other areas of testing, such as, detecting the (possible) presence of heavy metals in foods, the whole issue of rancidity, etc,” says Director, and Chief Food Storage Officer of the FSPID, Roy McNeil.
The agency celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2008 and Mr. McNeil says “we are moving to ensure that, for the next 50 years, we improve our operations to the point where we can be regarded as highly proficient and efficient.”
An agency of the Ministry of Industry, Investment, and Commerce, the FSPID was established in 1958 and operates under the tenets of the Food Storage and Prevention of Infestation Act of 1958, and Regulations of 1973. Its mandate is to ensure the safety and wholesomeness of all foods and feeds entering commerce in Jamaica.
Currently, the FSPID operates from two main offices – its headquarters at 15 Gordon Town Road in Kingston, and an outpost at the offices of sister agency, the Consumer Affairs Commission (CAC) at Catherine Hall in Montego Bay.
Mr. McNeil, explains that the agency provides laboratory, inspection and disinfestation services, which are executed through seven departments.
These are the Entomology Unit, Microbiology Unit, Pesticide Residue and Mycotoxins Unit, Rodent Biology and Control Unit, and Post Harvest Technology Unit, which provide laboratory services. In addition, there is the Inspectorate and Disinfestation Unit, which, as the same suggests, conducts inspection and disinfestation services, and the Training and Information Unit, which is responsible for disseminating information on the division’s activities.
The Entomology lab focuses on matters pertaining to insects, such as weevils, moths, and roaches, commonly found in infested foods and on matters pertaining to moisture content and the storage of durable commodities. The Post Harvest lab deals with the preservation of fruits and vegetables, subsequent to harvesting, thereby extending the shelf life, while the Rodent Biology and Control lab engages in activities, aimed at ridding entities of rats and other rodents.
Analyses are conducted on foods by the Pesticides Residue and Mycotoxins Unit, to ensure that they do not have what could be regarded as dangerous levels of pesticide residue, or toxins resulting from mould contamination. The Microbiology Unit monitors and analyzes foods and animal feeds imported to detect the levels of bacteria and mould, which may be present, and to ensure that foods are free of pathogenic micro-organisms that cause disease or spoilage.
According to Mr. McNeil, while the laboratories conduct a range of tests and analyses, to ensure that food is free of contaminants, the Inspectorate and Disinfestation teams carry out surveillance and regulatory activities.
“So they will visit food establishments across Jamaica. They also operate from the ports of entry, ensuring that all cargo coming into Jamaica, food or feed, is safe for human consumption,” he informs. As it regards disinfestation, he says: “these activities may include fumigation, spraying, baiting, fogging, misting, using appropriate pesticides to ensure that the food environment is clean, free of pests… and contaminants, and is in accordance with the Act and Regulations.”
Mr. McNeil notes that the FSPID takes a proactive approach to food safety, by ensuring that the necessary tests and inspections of foods are undertaken before they get into the commercial trade, and “even after it reaches the consumer, we continue to follow it through the system”.
He explains, for example, that if a shipment of rice comes into Jamaica, it is inspected by officers at the ports of entry to ensure that it is free of all pests and contaminants, before it goes into the warehouses.
“But, we are also fully aware that it will spend some time in the warehouse, and so the possibility of infestation exists. While it is there, our officers will visit and inspect the commodity to ensure that until it reaches the end of the distributive trade, such as supermarkets and grocery stores, it remains protected and safe for consumption. So, from time to time, in collaboration with other government ministries and agencies, we monitor and follow the food through the distributive trade,” he informs.
Some of the agencies, with which the division collaborates, include the Ministries of Health and Environment, and Agriculture; the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), as well as the Bureau of Standards Jamaica (BSJ), and the Scientific Research Council (SRC).
The FSPID, also works with external agencies such as Environment Canada, as it regards chemicals impacting the environment locally. “We looked at the possibility of using chemicals or pesticides that are more environmentally friendly and so we work with NEPA, and we have (also) been working with Environment Canada in the phasing out of the use of, for example, methyl bromide, which is an ozone depleting substance, as a fumigant, and, instead, looking at the possibility of using the ECO2 fumigant,” Mr. McNeil explains.
He advises that the FSPID has recorded several significant achievements over its 50 years. These include increasing the complement of laboratories from one to seven, and securing the necessary technology, which has enhanced the scientific work being undertaken. He further says the agency is in the process of having all the labs accorded international accreditation.
“That will mean that we will be able to get acceptance of our results from the international community, and also give Jamaican producers the assurance that their commodities are receiving the necessary attention, whenever we do our tests or analyses,” he points out.
Additionally, Mr. McNeil says the FSPID ensures that officers have been trained in the most up-to-date food safety approaches and applications, such as the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) system, which was conducted by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
Other accomplishments include: the provision of training for public health inspectors at the West Indies School of Public Health, with which the Division works closely; the staging of food safety workshops and seminars in schools, as well as training sessions for farmers, conducted in collaboration with the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA).
“We also work with our CARICOM partners. In the past, we worked very closely with Guyana in conducting training programmes, to ensure that their disinfestation activities are up to standard, so that when products come to Jamaica, they are free of pests and contamination,” Mr. McNeil informs, noting that this has helped to facilitate trade.
Some other significant activities, include research now underway, to improve the shelf life of sweet potatoes and to determine cyanide levels in cassava.
Regarding future plans, Mr. McNeil says that consideration is being given to expanding the facilities and operations of the Montego Bay office, which was re-established as an outpost in 2007, to better serve the region.
“In the past, there was an office.. but due to financial constraints, we had to close operations. But we realize that there is a large amount of food coming into Montego Bay, especially as a result of the hotels, and so we thought it necessary to re-open that post in Montego Bay,” he explains.
In addition, the agency is looking at ways it can better serve the rest of the island, where no other office exists. Currently, officers are assigned to each parish where no FSPID office exists.
To commemorate its 50th anniversary in 2008, the FSPID staged a series of activities, and according to Senior Food Storage Scientist in the Training and Information Unit, Tamara Morrison, these included a school poster and essay competition; seminars and programmes on food safety, pesticide residue awareness, and pest control; a church service, open house, and a gala awards banquet.
In addition, the agency launched a national food safety compliance programme, which aims to certify food establishments that meet stipulations under the Act and Regulations. This initiative, which will be ongoing, has seen upwards of 500 establishments islandwide, receiving certification since it was launched last May.

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