Dr Andre Gordon sets global standard for local food safety
The significant contribution of science-based information to gaining and maintaining market access was underlined at the recent launch of the book Food Safety Quality Systems in Developing Countries, Volume 1: Export Challenges and Implementation Strategies, written by Jamaican scientist Dr Andre Gordon.
Launched at the head office
of the Jamaica Exporters' Association (JEA) at 1 Winchester Road, St Andrew, the publication examines in detail the theoretical and practical aspects of food safety and quality systems implementation by major world markets and new and emerging markets in developing countries. It also takes a comprehensive look at the issues facing exporters and importers of traditional foods and characteristics of the food and its distribution channels and market access from a historical and current context, to present best practices.
Key features include accessible, relevant case studies of instances when food safety was compromised, and it offers practical scientific input in dealing with and preventing these issues. This publication also offers successful strategies for developing food safety and quality systems from a national and firm-level perspective, relevant to academics, regulators, exporters, importers and major distributors handling food from various developing countries.
Dr Beverley Morgan, director of the Competitiveness Company put in perspective this publication, given that, in Jamaica, the conversation about market access has usually centred on legal or trade barrier-type issues that have to do with market size, demographics, market demand, as well as product standards and labelling. She told The Gleaner: "I don't mean to say that those are not important, but in today's environment where the countries are looking out for the welfare of their consumers there are strict legal implications. So as the global environment changes and as these standards become more stringent and more widespread, you better know what you shipping. You have to know where each of them came from, you have to have certificates which say this spray was used 12 weeks ago at this concentration and in this manner - you have to keep all of these records. They are technical things and they're documented and the records kept."
Traceability is important, according to Dr Morgan, since the liability for safety of an exported product rests with the exporter in the country of origin and not the person or entity selling it. "The vendor in the market place has to be able to trace every step that that product went through, right back to the small farmer who supplies and the liability. If anything goes wrong is not the vendor's. He/she has an agreement which says that you stand by your product, and you can't do that unless you have solid scientific backing for the product."
Meanwhile, Agriculture Minister Derrick Kellier explained that in addition to threats to the health of consumers, food-borne diseases also have the potential to harm trading relationships as well as the economies of countries. "This underscores how critical it is for us to pay special attention to plant health and the prevention, mitigation and management of pests and diseases. We must ensure that only the highest quality, pest-free agricultural commodities are imported and exported, in compliance with national and international health and food-safety standards," Kellier emphasised.
In 2000, the United States Department of Agriculture and the US embassy in Jamaica recognised the author, Dr AndrÈ Gordon, for his leadership of the successful Jamaican effort to regain access for Jamaican canned ackees to the United States market, after a 27-year ban. In 2006, Dr Gordon again led a reopening of the US market to Jamaican ackees after a temporary closure in December 2005. In 1995, through his technical intervention, working with the agriculture ministry, the Jamaican scientist had prevented the banning of ackees from the United Kingdom market. Dr Gordon was also instrumental in the reopening of the US market for canned cheese in 2003 and was at the forefront of the successful local effort to reopen the European market for conch.
The acclaimed scientist was modest in his expectations for the book, telling the launch: "This book, Volume 1 of a 3-volume series, will hopefully put Jamaica on the global food safety and quality systems map and give global exposure to the sophistication of our science, our understanding of the technical and practical aspects of international trade, our products, our companies and some of our brands. My hope is that Jamaica benefits greatly from it."