By Peta-Gay Hodges
KINGSTON, Jamaica, (JIS) – The Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce (MIIC) will continue to work closely with local and international development partners, various ministries, departments and agencies of government, to ensure that food produced in Jamaica is fit for local consumption and export.
Minister of state in the ministry, Dr Norman Dunn, gave the assurance as he addressed a World Antimicrobial Awareness Week (WAAW) symposium on November 24 at the Regional Headquarters, University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona Campus.
The symposium, which was held under the theme ‘Preventing Antimicrobial Resistance Together’, was one of the activities for WAAW, which was observed from November 18 to 24.
“Efforts need to be strengthened to reduce exposure to pathogens such as bacteria or chemical residue along the value chain in order to safeguard the strides that Jamaica has been making in manufacturing, agriculture and the growing productive sector,” State Minister Dunn said.
These, he added, include the sale and consumption of food, for which there are several international guidelines on trade to inform Jamaica’s legislative and regulatory response.
The industry, investment and commerce state minister pointed out that there are agencies within the ministry that are charged with specific responsibilities to safeguard Jamaica’s trading reputation while advancing appropriate safety, sanitation and hygiene standards.
They are the National Compliance and Regulatory Authority (NCRA), the Bureau of Standards Jamaica (BSJ), the Jamaica National Agency for Accreditation (JANAAC) and the Food Storage and Prevention of Infestation Division (FSPID).
“We work tirelessly to inspect and test food and animal products at all food-storage facilities, manufacturing, and retail facilities to ensure the safety and wholesomeness of food (including feed) intended for commerce in Jamaica,” Dr Dunn said. He added that the ministry’s regulators provide training and certification to pest-control operators.
“We also collect samples to conduct laboratory analyses on food for resistant pathogens, contaminants or pests that can harm our agriculture sector and our people. This information is then disseminated to the relevant stakeholders in pest management and best food-safety practices to be upheld,” he pointed out.
Dr Dunn said that JANAAC is playing a lead role internationally, having been recognised on June 14, 2022, as an accreditation body by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) under the Accredited Third-Party Certification Program.
As such, JANAAC now has the authority to accredit certification bodies to conduct food-safety audits under 10 of the 11 possible scopes.
JANAAC is one of four FDA-approved accreditation bodies globally and the sole such entity in the English-speaking Caribbean.
This FDA recognition, the state minister said, is a game changer, as certification bodies accredited to this new scheme can conduct food-safety audits and issue certification to food facilities.
“Certificates received from JANAAC-accredited certification bodies can be used for expedited entry of food products into the United States once deemed eligible to participate in the Voluntary Qualified Importer Program (VQIP),” he explained.
“This is a key development in the ministry’s thrust to ensure that the world has safe food to consume,” the state minister added.