Food safety regulators chart path for strengthening food safety in Caribbean
A meeting of food safety regulators of the 15 CARICOM Member States concluded in Paramaribo recently with a set of key recommendations to enhance coordination of food safety measures. The regulators also committed to work together towards harmonised food safety standards for the region.
The meeting, held from 23-25 July 2019, was organised by the Caribbean Agricultural Health and Food Safety Agency (CAHFSA) headquartered in Suriname, in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) and the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Husbandry and Fisheries (LVV) of the Government of Suriname, a key partner in the implementation of the Suriname Agriculture Market Access Project (SAMAP).
SAMAP is a project funded by the European Union and implemented by FAO with the primary objective to strengthen and diversify Suriname’s agri-food and food production sector and bolster food safety capacities in the country.
“Organising this meeting, with participation of senior officials from the food safety competent authorities of all 15 CARICOM countries stems from the firm belief of Suriname’s Government to anchor its actions in modernising Suriname’s food control programmes using a regional approach, with the intent to promote a common set of food safety standards across the Caribbean region. In doing so, regional markets can be more easily accessed and may become a platform for the penetration of international markets,” said Minister Rabin Parmessar.
Officials recommended the creation of a Caribbean Task Force on Food Safety, that will act as a formal coordination mechanism advising and strengthening the work of CAHFSA on food safety. The Task Force will offer advice on prioritisation of food safety challenges and how to promote a common food safety agenda for the region, including an approach for harmonisation of food safety standards. The Paramaribo meeting also featured discussions with representatives of the food production sector in Suriname and the Caribbean region, who shared their issues of market access in the region.
Participants agreed to develop a recommendation to the Ministerial Council of Trade and Economic Development (COTED) of CARICOM countries, through a submission made by CAHFSA, to endorse the creation of the Food Safety Task Force. They also agreed to develop a standing forum for dialogue with industries in the region, with the intent to identify common challenges and offer a better guidance on food safety solutions.
“This mechanism will ensure that concertation of the food production sector is a regular practice for the development of major food safety policies and standards in the region, and will enable a more predictable environment for our producers and better protection for our consumers” added Minister Parmessar.
- CAHFSA is Inter-Governmental Organisation created in 2010, with the mandate “to perform a coordinating and organising role for the establishment of an effective and efficient regional sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) regime”, including food safety measures, “and to execute on behalf of Member States of the CARICOM” countries. CAHFSA is headquartered in Paramaribo, Suriname.
- The Suriname Agriculture Market Access Project (SAMAP) is a capacity building initiative implemented by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and funded by the European Union (EU) aiming to strengthen sustainable agricultural development in Suriname, through more competitive and safe production as well as better access to export markets. One of the objectives of the project is to improve food safety capacities and develop public and private standards to be observed by the production sector, with the aim to enhance the reliability and trustworthiness of the safety of agricultural products produced in Suriname, hence supporting improved market access opportunities.
- Food Control programmes are the collective actions and activities in place to manage specific food safety hazards, assure quality and safety of food and fair practices in the food trade (Codex Alimentarius Commission, CAC-GL82/2013)