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IICA Jamaica World Food Safety Day message 2021

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The Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture in Jamaica is pleased to join our partner organizations PAHO/WHO and FAO in raising awareness on the importance of safe food from farm to plate. In this very complex food value chain, all actors must be aware of and judiciously use science in combination with our unique context to ensure the safety of our food supply at all times.

The theme Safe Food Now For a Healthy Tomorrow brings focus to our shared responsibility to ensure our food supply meets our immediate and future needs for good health and productive lifestyles.  Embedded in this theme is also the requirement for a good understanding of the science that links Safe Food and Health. This means taking a systems approach and understanding that all of our actions impact the safety of our food supply.  By now you’re probably wondering what exactly are we talking about here, so I’ll give a little example.

Our food supply starts with a seed which requires someone to care for it in an environment conducive for it to produce and become part of our food supply. If the soil or water in which that seed is planted is contaminated with heavy metals or industrial waste, then that’s essentially what we will be consuming as food. By now some of us are probably thinking, well it’s a good thing I eat mainly seafood…..truth be told all the waste that’s dumped into rivers and water ways eventually gets to the oceans and therefore into our seafood as well. Since all of our Oceans are connected, it stands to reason that dumping or pollution in one area will eventually get to everyone. While there may be a lot of water in the oceans, not all man-made chemicals can be biologically broken down into harmless forms.

I’m sure by now you’re remembering your class on the food chain, where several little fish get eaten by bigger fish and so on until we eat the fish that has accumulated the waste that we have created. Over time these small doses of contaminants accumulate in our own bodies and have adverse and eventually detrimental effects to our health.

One lesson that we can certainly learn from the Covid-19 pandemic is that what we can’t see CAN hurt us. An ever growing percentage of people who have recovered from Coivd-19 are also experiencing lingering maladies or what’s being called Long Haulers Syndrome. As this is all new,  data is being continuously collected in order to make recommendations.

We therefore need a paradigm shift or game change to a science based systems approach to our agri-food systems and all sectors which share the same soil, water, wind and solar resources to ensure a safe and healthy food supply.

Here in Jamaica, IICA is working with the Ministries of Agriculture and Fisheries, Industry Investment and Commerce, Health and Wellness, Science, Energy and Technology and Academia as well as FAO and PAHO/WHO  in promoting a safe food supply in Jamaica. This also involves the monitoring and regulating of the food chain to reduce the likelihood of foodborne diseases. IICA has provided  capacity building and technical assistance to support Jamaica’s participation in meetings of the Codex Alimentarius Commission, the international standard setting body for food safety.

IICA is pleased to have also collaborated with the National Agricultural Health and Food Safety Coordinating Committee to develop a Food Control Manual for Jamaica. The manual will be launched this month and documents the integrated institutional arrangements that govern food in Jamaica. It is our hope that this document will be widely used as a reference or guide for those who produce and prepare food from farmers and fisher-folk, to manufacturers, caterers, vendors, cooks and all those responsible for making Jamaica’s food supply safe.

In closing, I would like to commend the public and private sector of Jamaica for being well on the way to a holistic and systems approach to food production. IICA commits our continued support in working with you and our partner agencies in making and keeping Jamaica’s food supply safe for all to enjoy.