Improved food safety standards for Guyana with launch of Codex Trust Fund Project

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Dr Leslie Ramsammy

In an effort to improve food safety standards in Guyana, the National Codex Community (NCC) has launched its Codex Trust Fund Project, to promote food safety standards, complementing healthier food consumption.

The initiative, was launched on Wednesday, at the Cara Lodge Hotel, Quamina street, Georgetown.

Advisor to the Minister of Health, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy, said Guyana, like all the other developing countries, must build its capacity to participate effectively in codex.

“We cannot just be recipients of the standards and guidelines; we must be active players in creating these standards and guidelines. We cannot just be comfortable in complaining. Even though the odds are overwhelmingly against us, we must be willing to participate and to raise our voices, and stand firm for our voices to be heard, that is our posture. And that is why we are happy that this trust fund project is in place in Guyana.”

According to Dr Ramsammy, food-borne diseases rank equally as other life-threatening diseases and should be taken seriously.

“Food-borne diseases are critical… the lost disability-adjusted life years lost annually is 33 million years lost, premature deaths because of food-borne diseases. Ninety-seven per cent of that are due to bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens,” Dr Ramsammy noted.

As such, the Health Ministry, along with other stakeholders, will soon be establishing a national committee aimed at promoting “one health”.
“One health”, according to Dr Ramsammy, is a critical approach to prevent food-borne diseases.
“The approach has to be farm- to-fork approach, boat-to-throat approach because we have to look at the food chain from beginning to end,” he said.

Dr Ramsammy further posited that there was a need for active surveillance and intervention in order to ensure that food being consumed locally was safe.

“If we are going to be effective in ensuring the people use safe and healthy food, we have to allow people to know when they procure this food, whether they are procuring foods that are dangerous to their health…those are imperatives,” he noted.

He added that companies continue to create packaging to make their products more attractive, but consumers must be aware of what they are purchasing.

“…we still have a food safety threat. Guyana must be determined – as a country that produces our own food, as a country that imports food, and also a country that exports food – we do not want to be a silent member, a silent participant in CODEX …”, he explained.

Meanwhile, Advisor, CARICOM Agriculture Food Systems, Dr. Richard Blair, on behalf of the Minister of Agriculture, assured attendees of the government’s stance to provide citizens with safe food.

“The theme of the project, “Promoting Food Safety Standards for a Healthier Guyana” embodies to my mind, a simple yet profound vision as indeed food should be good, food should be safe, food should be wholesome and accessible by everyone. The Government of Guyana embraces this vision and therefore shares the ambition of developing concrete actions to transform our Agri food system, so that the food produced and consumed is safe and nutritious foods for the population.”

Project Consultant, Carol Thomas during her virtual address, urged the public to make food safety their business by spreading the message.

“Public awareness sensitisation is important and necessary in order to ensure the buying of the message food safety and standards from all sectors of the society. We want to involve all stakeholders,” she pointed out.

Additionally, Guyana was selected as one of the eight successful applicants from the PI Codex Regions, receiving funding to the tune of US$150,000 for a period of three years., beginning from June 11.

This will see the implementation of activities geared towards building a strong and sustainable national coding system. The system aims to increase participation as a country in the world of politics.

The Guyana National Bureau of Standards (GNBS) is a part of the Codex Alimentarius Commission. They function as the policy makers, and regulators in charge of the food sector.

There were also presentations by representatives of the Pan American Health Organisation/ World Health Organisation, Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture and the GNBS.