Guyana working to improve food control systems to meet int’l standards

Customers shopping at the Coss-Cutter supermarket

The Ministry of Health is seeking to establish a ‘one health agenda,’ which will harmonise and advance the nation’s food chain, towards achieving the highest international food standards.

Advisor to the Minister of Health, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy, said the new initiative will see a national committee being launched with key participation by the Ministry of Agriculture.

He made the announcement Monday, during the launch of a one-week inception workshop, facilitated by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the World Health Organisation (WHO).

He said government will play a significant role in the production and processing of food and its quality, noting that there is still space for improvement in the local food control system.

“Guyana is a food producer, contributing to national food security. Guyana is also an exporter of food. Although Guyana has the capacity to feed our people, our food import bill is a large line item of foreign currency utilisation,” the former Health Minister noted.

He stressed that Guyana needs harmonisation for a more effective regime, especially since the existing legislative rarely reflect a balance between production, quality, safety and health.

“While there are aspects of prevention and protection within the existing laws, none of the laws pay attention to promotion of good health. The legal framework and the bureaucratic structure of the food control system, were never crafted with food chain in mind…” Dr. Ramsammy added.

Further, he said the fragmented legislative framework has led to multiple jurisdictions and democracy within the food control system.

Such a framework, he stressed, impedes Guyana’s response to growing complexity imposed by the WPO sanitary and phytosanitary agreement, by the complex demands form codex alimentarius and the OIE International Standards.

“While complex, these standards have been globally accepted as measures to enhance food safety and as Guyana accelerate our efforts to replace imported food and to be a major regional exporter of food, positions articulated by our Hon. Minister of Agriculture, we have no option but to rapidly improve our food control systems to fully meet these international standards,” Dr. Ramsammy emphasised.

Meanwhile, Agriculture Minister, Zulfikar Mustapha, M.P, stressed that unsafe foods are responsible for too many deaths every year, noting that the issue could be addressed if the right systems are in place.

“A safe food supply stimulates sustainable development via our national economy, trade, and tourism. In the face of existing and emerging challenges such as a growing global population, the globalisation of food trade, climate change, and changing food systems, our national food control and ultimately food safety must be taken to the next level…” he added.

Meanwhile, the national one-week event titled, “Assessment of Guyana’s national food control system, using the FAO/WHO food control system assessment tool,” will conclude on Friday, January 28, 2020.

In 2019, FAO and WHO jointly developed a comprehensive tool to assist member states in assessing the effectiveness of the national food control system. The tool comprises 25 system competencies under four dimensions.

During the workshop, the assessment process will be supported by FAO’s technical assistance.

The workshop will be divided into morning and afternoon sessions. Due to the ongoing pandemic and current travelling restrictions, the five-day event will be facilitated via Zoom. [Extracted from DPI]