Christopher Thomas, Gleaner Writer
Jamaica is poised to have fully accredited laboratories for food testing by January 2013 as part of an initiative to ensure that products exported to the United States market are of the required standard.
The initiative is based on stipulations put forward by the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which was signed into law on January 4, 2011 by United States President Barack Obama.
The FSMA consists of science-based preventive controls placed across the food supply chain to prevent food-borne germs from contaminating food exported into the US.
Ellis Laing, public education and information coordinator for the Bureau of Standards Jamaica, outlined that in the past, the US did not have any special requirements for food products to be tested by certified laboratories.
"Regulators worldwide are now requiring testing by accredited laboratories, as results from these have been found to be more accurate and reliable. An accredited laboratory has in place a quality management system and an infrastructure that maintains its technical competence," Laing explained.
"So far, five local food-testing laboratories have applied to the Jamaica National Agency for Accreditation (JANAAC) to be accredited to the international standard. The laboratories which have started the process should be ready by 2013," added Laing.
Laing also outlined that laboratories to be certified would undergo the process according to the international accreditation standard following the guidelines given in ISO/IEC 17025, General Requirements for the Competence of Testing and Calibration Laboratories.
"The International Laboratory Accreditation Corporation (ILAC) publishes guidelines to ensure universal interpretation of the standard. JANAAC, as a member of ILAC, adheres to these guidelines in conducting accreditation assessments," continued Laing.
The accreditation for food laboratories was previously outlined as part of an update on the FSMA during an investors' forum hosted by the Jamaica Promotions Corporation (JAMPRO) at the Riu Hotel in Ironshore, Montego Bay, on March 15.
The forum was the fifth in a series of ongoing talks and the second to be held in Montego Bay, wherein export and investment stakeholders in the Second City were given the opportunity to hold dialogue on business development and international trade issues.
JAMPRO President Sancia Bennett-Templer noted during the forum that the FSMA represents one of many international standards to which Jamaica must adhere.
"The FSMA could have a positive effect on the island's exports, in that conformity to FSMA stipulations will result in better quality exports, which allow us the opportunity to penetrate other non-traditional markets and capture an even greater segment of the US market," Bennett-Templer said.