Government should assist firms through the review of food law

Published: Saturday | December 28, 2013 Comments 0

Marva Hewitt, Contributor

I read with interest the article regarding Jamaican firms not following through to completion with regards to meeting standards for food products manufactured in Jamaica for sale in Trinidad. I marvel as to why these firms are really being challenged. Are the Jamaican Food Safety Law and regulations for producing food products for domestic and export not clear? Or is it that individual firms are finding it difficult to understand what is required for approval of their products to reach the Trinidadian and overseas marketplace?

If we are to examine Eastern Caribbean (EC) food laws, the Food Safety Act 1990 and relevant regulations to protect the consumer in the EC, and include food imported from Third World countries, we will see a robust food-safety law, albeit with loopholes. However, there is an effort to protect consumers from certain food-borne diseases through food imports. The harmonisation of countries such as the EC Community brought together a single marketplace, which also impacts on firms trading goods, and, therefore, the need for specific food-safety control regulations such as Regulations EC853/2004 and EC852/2004 and the Imported Food Regulations which aim to set higher standards for firms producing food of animal origin, which in this case would include our patty companies.

CODES OF PRACTICES

I implore our government ministries, including the Bureau of Standards and relevant associations such as the Jamaica Manufacturers and Jamaica Exporters' associations, to coordinate efforts to better assist firms through the review of food law, development of relevant codes of practices, guidance notes and special workshops, to reduce the decisions taken by some firms to give up through frustration.

Our Government and associations must make the path to export to other countries transparent. They can do so by benchmarking from countries such as the United Kingdom, where there are clear processes for firms to first enter a registration process that brings together all parties from the outset. This way, food manufacturers large and small have a footprint on what is required once their processing falls into a certain category.

Without this transparency and rules outlined from the outset, firms will continue to tread a path of futile efforts, resulting in frustration and giving up.

It is true that countries must protect their shore and their consumers from food-borne diseases, and the routes that these diseases travel have been learnt. I must, therefore, agree with decisions taken by the relevant government organisations in Trinidad to ensure that firms intending to trade in their country are compliant with standards. Failure to enforce these regulations can affect not just their country but impact negatively on the entire Caribbean, which will ultimately trade as one marketplace.

Marva Hewitt is managing director of the Food Hygiene Bureau. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com

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