Thu | Nov 23, 2017

Jamaica presents new study on Caribbean food safety

Published:Wednesday | August 30, 2017 | 12:00 AM
From left: Zoe Gordon, microbiology analyst at Technological Solutions Limited (TSL); Professor Don Schafner, past president of the International Association of Food Protection (IAFP); a student at the McGill University and Professor Lawrence Goodridge, McGill University, discuss TSL’s paper at the IAFP Conference in Tampa in July.

"The world is in a battle with bacteria." This was the view of one of America's highly respected business magazines, Fortune, bemoaning the dilemma facing America, with 48 million consumers becoming sick from food-borne pathogens.

It is estimated that it costs United States (US) consumers approximately US$55.5 billion to address food safety problems due to the deadly bacteria Listeria.

The Technological Solutions Limited (TSL) team, led by Jamaican food scientist Dr AndrÈ Gordon, has been addressing this issue for Jamaican exports of a range of foods to the US, as well as Canada and the European Union, including the United Kingdom.

At a recent presentation of research work done by TSL at the International Association of Food Protection (IAFP) in Tampa, Florida, made by Zoe Gordon, microbiological analyst at TSL, she indicated that the Caribbean, which is home to 39.1 million people with a further 28.7 million stopover visitors in 2015, all expect to get safe, wholesome food.

Gordon pointed to a 2015 Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) report which stated that food safety had become a major issue for consumers both in the regional as well as in export markets, with any increase in food-borne illness being a cause for concern.

"Although statistics suggest that the number and severity of major food-borne illness outbreaks in the region have been relatively limited, any major outbreak would be of concern, not only because of the public-health significance for the regional population, but also because of its impact on tourism, the engine of regional growth," she said.

"Consequently, understanding the microbiological profile of Caribbean foods and how this influences their safety would facilitate better planning and management of food safety in the region."

 

VERY LITTLE IS KNOWN

 

Referring to the study done by her organisation to bridge this gap, Gordon said: "Very little is known about the conformance of a range of foods with industry standards and how this influences food safety."

In the study, TSL examined data gathered over an 11-year period (2004-2014) on a wide range of Caribbean foods and environmental samples from selected production facilities, in its ISO 17025 accredited laboratory.

The paper - co-authored by Zoe Gordon, James Kerr, operations manager, and Dr AndrÈ Gordon - is the first report which presented detailed information on the comparison of a wide range of Caribbean foods with international food safety (microbiological) standards and showed exceptional conformance with these standards.