JIS News

Acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Reginald Budhan, has said that greater collaboration between the Government and the private sector is essential in ensuring food safety.
“For the successful accomplishment of optimum food safety standards, teamwork and collaboration with private sector organizations (food and food-related industries) as well as other related government support agencies, is most critical,” Mr. Budhan said.
He was speaking on behalf of Minister, Karl Samuda, at an exposition and fair held at the Emancipation Park in Kingston yesterday (June 20) to mark the culmination of National Food Safety Week, (June 15 to 20), themed: ‘Food Safety in Your Hands’.
Mr. Budhan said the government and private sector need to collaborate in research, training, sharing information and public education, for the benefit of consumers, locally and overseas. “Stakeholders in the food industry must take responsibility for such matters as rodent control, proper environmental management and the use of the chemicals which can cause harm,” he urged.
He noted that the Food Safety fair and exposition was “both timely and significant,” and that took place at a time when there have been increased national and international food-borne diseases such as “mad cow” disease, leptospyrosis, as well as frequent outbreaks of salmonella contamination.
“Although Jamaica has been spared the worst, we must maintain vigilance. Our producers and the consumer at large must be actively engaged and pro-actively involved.the process must become everybody’s business,” he stressed.
The Acting Permanent Secretary further pointed out that food safety also impacted on the integrity of the country’s exports and had serious implications for the tourism industry. “With the increase in globalization and competition on the world market, the compliance programme increasingly must seek to maintain the integrity of all food and feeds destined for export,” he said.
He said that strict adherence to food safety standards with respect to quality, health, safety and the environment could not be compromised and that “only by embracing this challenge will we be able to produce goods and services that are competitive within the global economy.”
Mr. Budhan noted that he was pleased that more individuals as well as businesses have been adopting responsible health and safety practices when handling food. “It is very heartening that increasingly, individuals and enterprises are recognizing that it is in their enlightened self interest to get involved in the business of food safety and related matters,” he said.
“In fact, a number of businesses such as bakeries, restaurants and food processing enterprises are very keen on earning their compliance certificates. Certification attests to the integrity of their products and assures the public that their establishment conforms to high standards of health safety and wholesomeness,” he explained.
Food Safety Week was organized by the National Agricultural Health and Food Safety Coordinating Committee (NAHFSCC) through the sponsorship of the Agricultural Support Services Project (ASSP). The Ministries of Agriculture, Health, and Industry, Investment and Commerce are also involved in the process.
Meanwhile, Chairman of the Committee, Dr. Linnette Peters, said that Food Safety Week, which is being recognized for the first time, was an ideal way of sensitizing the population about proper food safety practices, and expressed the hope that it would become an annual event.
She noted that the response from the public has been good, and that “we really want the consumers to take some responsibility for food safety and I think we have been able to get across some of the food safety messages.”
Dr. Peters stressed that the public had a “personal responsibility for making sure that the food they consume is safe.” She said that all persons selling food should hold a valid Food Handlers Permit. Also, any food-handling establishment should be licensed by the regulatory authority and have licenses displayed.
She informed that there are certain key procedures to follow in ensuring food safety: “Use clean, safe water when washing fruits and vegetables, wash hands before handling food, and after using the bathroom,” she noted.
Dr. Peters further informed that catering services operating out of homes, needed to be regularized “because they too can be a source of food-borne illnesses.”
Government agencies with booths at the exposition included the Veterinary Services Division, and Plant Quarantine Division of the Ministry of Agriculture; the Ministry of Health’s Pesticide Control Authority and Public Health Division; and the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce’s Food Storage and Prevention of Infestation Division (FSPID), the Bureau of Standards Jamaica, and the Consumer Affairs Commission (CAC).

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