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New food regulations coming

New safety guidelines and regulations are coming for the local agriculture and food manufacturing sector.

This disclosure from Dr Beverley Wood, project coordinator of the National Agricultural Health and Food Control Agency, which falls under the Ministry of Agriculture.

She was speaking yesterday at the opening of a two-day workshop staged by the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Sating that local authorities were cognizant of Barbados’ obligations as a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Wood said a number of new measures were being put in place to ensure compliance with international guidelines and practices.

“Many of our current laws are based on a reactive approach and, in some cases, new laws have to be drafted, and we are in process of reviewing those and identifying which need to be done. Preventative approaches such as HACCP [Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points], good agricultural practices, good hygiene and manufacturing processes are all aspects of the food chain from farming to fork, and establishment of mandatory safety standards,” she said.

Wood said the necessary changes would ensure that food and agricultural product producers and operators were entrusted with greater responsibility in ensuring food safety, the quality of the health of plants, animals and the environment.

The regulators, she explained, would be responsible for auditing performances of the system through inspection, monitoring and surveillance activities and enforcing legal and regulatory requirements as well as containing, controlling, mitigating or eliminating any threats.

Wood said so far Government had procured the services of “a short-listed three firms” to provide the assessment of the primary industries with respect to their level of implementation of good agricultural and hygiene practices.

“We also will enhance our surveillance and management systems and processes to search for any plant pests and animal diseases as well as contaminants in food products in our environment. In that regard, the Plant Protection Unit for many years has been working with USDA agents with regard to plant pests, a collaboration that has worked well and we hope will continue,” she said.

“We are also improving our inspection and enforcement services at the ports of entry, on farms, fishing vessels, at abattoirs, and therefore are in the process of providing import/export manuals and such alike, to be able to have a transparent process for these inspection processes. We also are looking to improve our laboratory services to enable the diagnosis of pests, diseases and pathogens . . . [and other] contaminants,” added Wood.

She said the island had “a problem” with some of its laboratories, adding that officials were in the process of “looking for funds to provide us with enhancing the laboratory services”.

“We are also looking at our quarantine services and our controls and recovery systems and we have been working with the Food and Agricultural Organization along with three other member states from CARICOM providing a traceability system for food. And we have the technical document, and at the end of August, we will have the consultants come back and engage in a pilot study to ensure how applicable or manageable that system is,” revealed Wood, who revealed that the ministry would also be conducting a public education campaign.

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