KINGSTON — Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Hon. Karl Samuda, says that contrary to media reports, processed ackee is safe for consumption and there has been no case of poisoning from the product.
“These recent announcements that persons suffered food poisoning as a result of consuming ackees (and) implying that they may well have been ackees that were processed, is totally, absolutely and categorically false,” Mr. Samuda told a press briefing at his Ministry, New Kingston, Wednesday April 6.
He said the product is “now under stress and almost at a stage of crisis,” because of misinformation and lack of proper understanding of the importance of making sure that whatever comes out to the public, is accurate.
“We cannot run risks with elements of our agriculture and industrial sectors that pose a threat to hardworking producers, who have fought for years to enter markets that are very competitive and discriminating,” Mr. Samuda said.
He noted that processors have begun to experience cancellation of orders, putting the industry under great threat.
“We want to assure, both locally and internationally, that our products are safe…there is no case where anyone has been poisoned through the consumption of processed ackee, and we stand behind that,” he stated.
Mr. Samuda also pointed out that the Bureau of Standards Jamaica (BSJ) has a sophisticated mechanism in place, through his Ministry, and has been very vigilant in monitoring all producers of processed ackee, to avoid the risk of jeopardising the export.
He said that the Ministry has de-registered certain “renegades” within the industry, to ensure the safety of the commodity.
Mr. Samuda also explained that there have been instances where ackee has been prematurely consumed, that have lead to problems.
“We continue to advise the public that ackee should not be consumed, where it is not allowed to open naturally. It should not be force-ripened and then used but, in terms of the ackee that is used for canning, for local consumption and export, there is no threat whatsoever,” he stated.
He also made clear that, as it relates to the tourism industry, hotels that use ackee can continue to do so, with the assurance that the product is safe.
“We cannot afford, at this time, to lose the valuable trade and foreign exchange that flows from that trade (ackee),” he added.
Mr. Samuda’s statement was supported by Medical Epidemiologist, Communicable Diseases, in the Health Promotion and Protection Branch of the Ministry of Health, Dr. Tonia Dawkins, who said that her Ministry is in the process of investigating recent cases of poisoning that have been reported.
“But, so far, absolutely none of the cases have reported that they consumed canned or tinned ackees… for the most part, (they) have said the ackee is from trees in their own back yards,” she said.
By ALPHEA SAUNDERS, JIS Reporter