Government to Establish Food Safety Agency


The Government is to establish a Food Safety Agency, which will have sole responsibility for monitoring food imports, to ensure their wholesomeness for consumption, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Mr. Donovan Stanberry, has disclosed.
Speaking with JIS News, Mr. Stanberry informed that establishment of the facility is expected to reduce to one, the number of entities, primarily ministries and government agencies, currently engaged in executing the protocol and regime governing Jamaica’s food, health and safety infrastructure and institutional arrangements, under the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) funded Agricultural Support Services Project (ASSP).
The National Agricultural, Health and Food Safety Co-ordinating Committee, comprising public sector stakeholders involved in food safety, will spearhead the work to this end.
Currently, upwards of six ministries and agencies are engaged in this undertaking, with the Ministries of Industry, Investment and Commerce; Health, and Agriculture, as the lead entities.
“The Ministry of Agriculture (has responsibility) in terms of our veterinary services and our plant quarantine divisions. The Ministry of Health also has a responsibility in terms of the public health side.and the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce, in terms of infestation and pests and food storage,” the Permanent Secretary outlined.
Mr. Stanberry said the food, health and safety infrastructure and institutional arrangements were reviewed during a meeting of stakeholders two years ago, from which the recommendation for the creation of a single entity evolved.
“It was recommended that we have a single food safety agency, patterned from what obtains in Canada and Belize. Cabinet has approved the exploration of the idea and has asked us to review all the attendant legislation. That work is currently being executed and we hope that we will see something concrete from it very soon,” the Permanent Secretary said.
The National Agricultural, Health and Food Safety Co-ordinating Committee is comprised of representatives from the Ministries of Industry, Investment and Commerce; Agriculture and Fisheries, and Health; Veterinary Services Division; Plant Quarantine Division; Plant Protection Division; Food Safety and Prevention of Infestation Division (FSPID); Pesticides Control Authority (PCA); Bureau of Standards, Jamaica (BSJ); and the Research and Development Division (Ministry of Agriculture).
The body, which operates under the auspices of the ASSP, has primary responsibility for spearheading communication and co-ordination among the stakeholders. Currently, it is chaired by Director, Projects, Planning and Policy Research, Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Mrs. Andrene Collings.
Mr. Stanberry pointed out that the establishment of the Food Safety Agency is expected to significantly reduce, if not eliminate, challenges such as duplication and simplifying the processes involved in importing foods and monitoring the quality of same.
“When you have one agency, you are better able to use your resources. everything will be consolidated in one place. We have just started, but it’s a commitment of the government. The Cabinet has signed off on it and we expect it to happen,” he said.
Late last year, an import/export One Stop Facility was officially opened at the wharf in Kingston by Prime Minister, the Hon. Bruce Golding.

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