Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Robert Montague, says Cabinet will soon deliberate over the drafting of a Food Safety Act, to set safety standards for imported foods.
Mr. Montague said this is necessary as, “the protection of our Jamaican people is of paramount importance to the Government of Jamaica”.
He was speaking at a food safety workshop for food industry regulatory agencies and stakeholders, at the Mona Visitors’ Lodge, University of the West Indies (UWI), on Thursday September 22.
Mr. Montague pointed to the “significant reports of animal disease outbreaks globally”, which have been occurring simultaneously with the global market’s rapid expansion. He said the diseases, which include avian influenza and foot and mouth disease, have resulted in severe socio-economic dislocations and the death or emergency slaughter and disposal of large numbers of animals and, in some instances, entire herds.
Against this background, he stressed the pivotal role of each country’s Veterinary Services in preventing and controlling animal diseases, and safeguarding both animal and public health.
“This is a matter of paramount importance in ensuring the livelihood of a country’s farmers, and enhancing food security. It is the duty of the veterinary authority of each country to ensure that animals and animal products, intended for trade, meet the minimum required international standards,” he stated.
Mr. Montague said this is necessary, in light of the Food Safety Modernization Act recently signed into law in the United States. He warned that there will be no room for error on the part of exporters, as the Americans are demanding increased protection against food borne illnesses “and we, in Jamaica, must demand no less”.
“Just as how the Americans and the Europeans have set standards for foods coming into their marketplace, we too, in Jamaica, will be setting these standards for foods coming into our marketplace,” he asserted. He said that focus will be placed on enforcing the provisions of the local Act, after it is approved.
Mr. Montague said his Ministry will also be focusing more attention on the abattoirs. He noted that a Ministry study has revealed that Jamaica needs four Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) certified abattoirs through which all commercial meats should be processed, and approximately 100 community abattoirs, to meet minimum standards.
“This may not only ensure that animal products are safe for Jamaicans, but will allow us to export to any country in the world. It is our intention to build at least one of these commercial abattoirs within this financial year, and upgrade a number of the community abattoirs,” he assured.
The two-day workshop, which ended Thursday, was hosted by the Ministry’s Veterinary Services Division under the theme, “The Role of Veterinary Services in Food Safety –The Way Forward”.
Over 20 participants in the food industry attended the forum, which facilitated interactive discussions between the division and other regulatory agencies and stakeholders engaged in providing safe animal products.
The forum was aimed at increasing awareness of the role and functionality of veterinary services in food safety, based on international standards, as well as to examine options with alternatives in achieving required food safety standards.