May 13 2017: At a High Level Executive Meeting, hosted by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO), on Wednesday 10th May, 2017, the Agriculture Minister said ‘I have a deep and personal interest in food safety’, sharing with the audience that in his first month in office, he wrote to his colleagues in Health, Trade and Education ‘indicating to them that it was very clear that this Ministry has a vested interest in matters of food safety and nutrition’ and has since asked for them all to ‘put their heads together to treat with three pressing issues’, in particular food laundering, food fraud; highlighting that ‘a consumer has the right to know what they are eating’ and therefore ‘there is a responsibility on all of us to tell our consumers what they are dealing with’.
In her Technical Presentation, Dr. Lystra Fletcher-Paul, FAO Representative for Trinidad and Tobago and Suriname revealed that a major contribution to NCDs is our diet, both in terms of what we eat and also in terms of food safety, which includes the post-harvest handling and preparation of our foods, among others. Saying that this Workshop is ‘a call to action at the highest levels of Government to address negative trends associated with food safety and non-communicable diseases and to seek your commitment on how we should proceed’. Further, she stated that ‘we at FAO recognize that food safety is too big an issue to be handled by one Agency, one Ministry, one group to be addressed on its own; we must work together in partnership’.
Also addressing the audience were Dr. Roshan Parasram, Chief Medical Officer, Ministry of Health who shared that ‘one of the core responsibilities of the Ministry of Health is ensuring that the national population is provided with safe food’; Dr. Bernadette Theodore-Gandi, PAHO/WHO Representative in Trinidad and Tobago, who said ‘we at PAHO are totally committed to this process; this is a priority for PAHO’; and Ms. Yvonne Lewis, Director of Health Education Division, Ministry of Health.
Discussion were centred on the finalization and approval of the Food Safety Policy; Operationalization of the Risk-based Manual on Food Safety; Implementation of Food Safety Communication Behavioral Impact (COMBI) Plans; and Implementation of a Good Agricultural Practice (GAP) programme. The objective of the Meeting was to present to senior Government officials a synopsis of partners’ programmes conducted in 2016 to help address negative trends associated with food safety and non-communicable diseases; and to seek agreement to proceed with planned initiatives for 2017/2018.
Senator the Honourable Clarence Rambharat, Minister of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries further challenged the officials in three areas:
· to ‘bridge the gap from these workshops and the vital work we do with what is happening out there and what the citizens of this country has to deal with’’
· ‘to move from the technical work that has been done to implementation; and
· to recognize our responsibility to ‘communicate with the citizens of this country drawing their attention to risks, opportunities, cautions and precautions’
Among the senior officials attending the high level meeting were Mr. Claudelle Mc Kellar, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries; Mrs. Patricia Maharaj, Chief Technical Officer, Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries; Mr. Theodore Reddock, Executive Director (Ag.), Trinidad and Tobago Bureau of Standards; Ms. Nirmala Persad, Chief Executive Officer (Ag.), National Agricultural Marketing and Development Corporation (NAMDEVCO); along with representatives from the Public Health Inspectorate; University of the West Indies; among others.