Robert Hart, Parliamentary Reporter
OPPOSITION MEMBER of Parliament for Eastern St. Andrew, Dr. St. Aubyn Bartlett, on Wednesday night called for the establishment of a national veterinary investigation centre to secure 'veterinary public health' in the island.
Dr. Bartlett raised the issue during an academic contribution to the 2005/2006 Sectoral Debate in Parliament Wednesday night, in which he schooled colleague parliamentarians on the history and threat faced from bovine spongiform encephalophathy, commonly called mad cow disease.
A second case of mad cow disease was recently reported in the United States, fuelling concerns that it could one day appear in Jamaica.
NO SYSTEM OF TESTING
According to Dr. Bartlett, a veterinarian, Jamaica has no system of testing and active surveillance for the deadly disease.
"While it is a hard pill to swallow when you discover a positive (test), the hard truth is that you are aware of your country's status and can do what is necessary," the Opposition MP said.
Dr. Bartlett questioned the Government on the safety practices in the nation's slaughterhouses and said legislators should not shirk their responsibility to prevent unhealthy food safety practices.
He said: "I am demanding the establishment of a national veterinary investigation centre and a veterinary public health inspectorate that is adequately staffed to deal with veterinary and veterinary public health investigations."
Dr. Bartlett added that he was also demanding the return of subsidised government veterinary clinical services for livestock and poultry farmers.
He called for the modernisation of slaughterhouses and their regulation, so proper reporting can be made on every animal slaughtered.
The Opposition MP also warned that a joint commission of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation and the World Health Organisation would be meeting at the end of this month, and would likely examine food safety in Jamaica.
He said the Codex Alimentarius Commission sets food safety and agricultural trade standards across the world.
"One of the issues that are likely to be on their agenda is the level of cadmium in Jamaican soils and consequently our root tubers," he said.
The Opposition MP added: "Cadmium is believed to contribute to our high prostate cancer rate. How this will affect export of root tubers such as yam, cassava, dasheen, sweet potato and cocoa needs critical investigation."
Dr. Bartlett said Jamaica's bammy industry could also come in for scrutiny as the commission looks at, and decides on, allowable levels of the chemical hypoglycin in cassava.