Advertisement
JIS News

Story Highlights

  • What if your food were not tested? You could experience severe stomach discomfort, major gastrointestinal distress, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, dehydration and even death. In other words, you could get food poisoning!
  • The NRMP covers testing of local and imported aquaculture, honey and livestock products - chicken meat, pig meat, goat meat, beef and milk.
  • Having a scientifically controlled system means everything is monitored, and that allows professionals to intervene and institute corrective actions.

What if your food were not tested?  You could  experience severe stomach discomfort, major gastrointestinal distress, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, dehydration and even death.  In other words, you could get food poisoning!

Having a food testing regulatory body in the country ensures that  your foods are  monitored and the best practices are applied to ensure it is fit for consumption.

The internationally-recognised Veterinary Services Division (VSD) of the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries (MICAF) is  the regulatory body for food testing in Jamaica.

“Jamaicans can be reassured that their foods are being tested by the best trained lab technicians who are using first-grade equipment,” assures Dr. Winthroph Marsden, Senior Veterinary Officer and Technical Manager in the Veterinary Services Division.

Jamaica’s laboratories, equipped to conduct tests to  detect and prevent food poisoning or any food illnesses caused by contaminated food, are rated among the best in the region.

Dr. Marsden notes that food safety is a priority of the Government, adding that work done by the Veterinary Services Diagnostic Laboratory (VSDL) at the Ministry meets international standards and is ISO 17025 certified.

The Senior Veterinary Officer says the VSDL performs food health and disease checks, veterinary drug residues tests and contaminant surveillance of animal products and all foods of animal origin, among other tasks.

He explains that modern animal production now uses drugs more frequently.

“About 80 per cent of animals receive drugs, and growth hormones are used on plants and animals to alter the process,” he says.

Food testing, therefore, is a critical process.  “Food with contaminants, drugs and additives can harm us”, he notes.

Dr. Marsden explains that the National Residue Monitoring Programme (NRMP) at the VLSD addresses drug residues and contaminants in foods. He adds that the NRMP encourages the protection of public and animal health by preventing misuse of drugs and other steroids used on animals and plant life.

The NRMP covers testing of local and imported aquaculture, honey and livestock products – chicken meat, pig meat, goat meat, beef and milk. The programme also includes inspection and monitoring of processing facilities and production areas.

“Having a sound testing facility increases trade and the international community’s confidence in the country’s ability to provide safe food. This benefits the citizens, global trade and country’s economy,” he says.

Dr. Marsden explains that while there are myriad benefits to having a successful residue monitoring programme, there are several challenges in the implementation of such programmes in developing countries like Jamaica.

He pinpoints funding as a major constraint:  “This is why projects like the European Union-funded  Economic Partnership Agreement  are critical to our development in the food-testing arena,” he adds.

Another challenge  is identifying qualified persons to conduct research and work in the labs.  This challenge has been addressed through partnership with international  agencies which have provided funding for the training of professionals.

Microbiology Analyst at the Bureau of Standards Jamaica (BSJ), Dionne Pryce, says scientific food testing is critical because our sight, taste and smell cannot provide all the information needed to assess the safety of foods.

Mrs. Pryce points out that, like the analyses done at MICAF, the BSJ microbiological testing helps our manufacturers to produce the quality products, ensuring that its processes are satisfactory.

Canned products are checked to ensure that they are commercially sterile. That is, that the processing applied to the food achieves the desired results – the inability of bacteria to grow.  Sauces are also checked for yeast to ensure that these products will not spoil when they reach consumers overseas.

Mrs. Pryce says, “the importance of food safety impacts our country’s ability to trade. Products slated for export such as pimento, teas, ginger and lobsters are routinely screened for pathogens.”

Having a scientifically controlled system means everything is monitored, and that allows professionals to intervene and institute corrective actions. Microbiological testing, helps to determine the best means of processing, preservation and storage.

“The food industry is increasingly subject to scrutiny, and testing to ensure compliance with food-safety regulations,” Mrs. Pryce says. “This is why the labs at  the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries and the Bureau of Standards,  among others, are important to provide pertinent information about food safety to the manufacturer and consumers,” she concludes.