Avia Collinder, Business Writer
As many as 345 food-processing factories have volunteered for registration under the Jamaican Standard Specification for Processed Food (General) and 62 companies under a decades-old law.
The Bureau of Standards Jamaica (BSJ) does not claim to be the driver of the compliance levels.
That credit goes to the United States' new Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which has placed new obligations for food safety on producers; otherwise companies will lose their footholds in US markets.
"Meeting the stipulations of local registration facilitates the process of meeting the requirements of agencies such as the US food and drug agency and other countries' regulatory requirements," said BSJ communications manager Ellis Laing.
The BSJ has published a first-time listing of the 345 registered companies under the processed food JS 36: 1991 standard, as well as the 62 registered under the Processed Food Act of 1959.
The FSMA is administered by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Local food exports - valued at US$118 million (J$10 billion) - could be denied entry to United States markets if non-compliant with the new FSMA stipulations on food handling and certification.
The law requires most food companies to write and implement new food-safety protocols to mitigate potential hazards, and individual food-safety plans must also be documented and updated every two years or sooner if the company changes suppliers, processes or ingredients.
Among local food exporters, 90 are said to be in various stages of certification.
The BSJ did not say whether the number of volunteering institutions represented the highest number to register to date nor what conditions they had to meet for registration.
Among the group are numerous bakeries, juice makers, and spice and condiment manufacturers.
But the extensive listing published by BSJ is a first for the standards agency.
Laing said registration of food-processing establishments is a mandatory requirement under the Processed Food Act.
The BSJ also offers several 'Conformity Assessment Programmes' under which companies may be certified.
"While the organisation has, in the past, published other listings of registered and certified block-making establishments, small electrical appliances for sales, registered operators of specific products, this comprehensive listing of registered food-processing establishments has been undertaken as the organisation seeks to ensure increased consumer awareness regarding the roles and responsibilities of the Bureau of Standards Jamaica," Laing said.