The Senate has approved amendments to the Processed Food Act and the Standards Act, to among other things, increase fines and penalties for breaches.
Approval of the Bills, which were piloted by Minister of Justice, Senator the Hon. Mark Golding through the Upper House on Friday (May 4), pave the way for offenders to be fined $3 million for offences, up from $200 in the case if the Processed Food Act and $500,000 under the Standards Act, or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months.
According to the Memoranda of Objects and Reasons, the prevalence of non-compliance with the provisions of the Acts necessitates revision of the offences.
The documents state that the fines and penalties for breaches of the provisions are inadequate and are no longer sufficiently punitive or operate as an effective deterrent.
The Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce, through the Bureau of Standards, has oversight for aspects of the agro-processing industry.
Senator Golding said the Bureau has observed unacceptable practices in the industry, which can have a deleterious effect on the health and safety of both local and international consumers. “Additionally, these practices may threaten the sustainability of Jamaica’s markets for processed foods overseas,” he said.
The Processed Food Act regulates establishments for the processing and packaging of food and provides, among other things, for the registration of such establishments, regulation of food processing, imposes requirements for labelling and packaging of food, and sets up an enforcement regime, including inspectors and analysts.
The Standards Act regulates standards for commodities, processes and practices. The Act establishes the Bureau of Standards to promote and encourage the maintenance of standardisation in relation to commodities, processes and practices, providing, inter alia, for the establishment of standards specifications, standard marks and their licensing.
Opposition Senator, Hon. Dr. Christopher Tufton, in supporting the amendments said it is critical for legislation to “keep up with the times”, in order to serve as an adequate deterrent.
“The adjustment from the $200 (Processed Food Act) is intended to create encouragement for abiding by the legislation and the legislation is intended to improve the quality of standards that we would like to see in our industries in Jamaica,” he stated.
By Athaliah Reynolds-Baker, JIS Reporter