Wed | Jun 19, 2019

Letter of the Day | Making food safety a priority

Published:Thursday | December 13, 2018 | 12:53 AM

The Editor, Sir:

It is of paramount importance that we develop a reliable and effective system to minimise the risk of food-borne disease outbreaks to protect our Jamaican citizens.

Food safety is an important facet of public health and also an important concept for sustainable development.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) call for action to eliminate poverty, hunger and improve nutrition while promoting sustainable agriculture in order to achieve food security. This requires that all people have access to safe and nutritious meals at all times. Once we put effort into achieving this goal, we will be in a strong position to reach another sustainable goal which includes providing good health and well-being.

According to the World Health Organisation (2017) an estimated 600 million people, almost one in 10 people in the world, fall ill after eating contaminated food.

Children under five years of age carry 40 per cent of the food-borne disease burden, with 125,000 deaths every year. Unsafe food containing harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemical substances, causes more than 200 diseases – ranging from diarrhoea to cancers.

Given these statistics, Jamaica must move to implement measures to protect the population against food-borne illnesses. One such measure that we can introduce is an Inspection Score and Grading System which would use letter grades (A, B and C), that correspond to overall compliance with regulations. This system will be designed to provide consumers with information about sanitation, the degree of compliance with regulations and hygiene standards in food premises at the time of inspection by the public health inspectors.

Once inspection and observation are completed, results could be posted online for food service establishments and resorts operating in Jamaica. A system of this nature would greatly assist business operators, and most importantly consumers, who not only purchase food but also those who participate in events such as Restaurant Week.

I am etc.,

Benyamin Cooke