KINGSTON — Minister with responsibility for Information and the Public Service, Senator Hon. Arthur Williams, says no restriction has been placed on food processors exporting to the United States.
In a response to a release published on Tuesday claiming that temporary bans have been imposed on food processors, Mr. Williams said the Bureau of Standards Jamaica has informed him that no ban has been placed on any local exporter.
The release alleged that the temporary ban was imposed, following inspections by a team from the United States' Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
"The Bureau of Standards, which I checked with today, has advised me that they are not aware of any ban, temporarily or otherwise, on exports to the United States, from any food processing company in Jamaica,” the Minister said.
He admitted that an inspector from the FDA is currently in Jamaica, but explained that his inspections are in respect of four new fresh produce facilities, not processed food companies.
Senator Williams was speaking at the weekly Post-Cabinet press briefing at Jamaica House, on Wednesday (November 9).
He said the inspection of the fresh produce facilities are being carried out under existing regulations, as the Food Safety Modernisation Act regulations have not being fully developed.
"My understanding is that the inspector has identified some areas for improvement that are to be addressed within three weeks. The companies have indicated that they are not aware of any ban preventing them from exporting into the United States market, and they have expressed confidence that they will meet the requirements within the three-week timeframe,” he added.
Mr. Williams also explained that the purpose of the visit is to determine compliance with new regulations arising from the passage of the US Food Safety Modernization Act. In the meantime, Cabinet has given approval for amendments to the Processed Food Act and the Standards Act, and their accompanying regulations for tabling in Parliament.
"These Bills are designed to do a number of things, including increasing penalties and fines for breaches which were not adequately punitive to mitigate against trends and practices emerging in the local food processing industry,” Senator Williams said.
"The fines had been set at a time when fines were generally low, and so an opportunity was taken to increase those fines,” he noted.
He pointed out that an opportunity was also taken to remove, what is referred to as, continuing offence. It is being removed from all legislations, as part of the new jurisprudential developments.
“The other important amendment that arises is to make provisions for the public to be notified, in the relation to the status of each establishment which has been found to be in breach of the rules and has been ordered by the Minister to cease operations,” he said.
By Chris Patterson, JIS Reporter