FARMERS URGED TO UTILIZE UPLAND CROPS SOILS LABORATORY FOR TESTING FOOD SAFETY

Basseterre, St. Kitts, September 28, 2016 (SKNIS): Farmers in St. Kitts and Nevis are being urged to have their produce tested at the Vegetable, Fruits and Upland Crops Soils Laboratory located at Needs Must to ensure the safety of consumers.

This was emphasized at the two-day National Traceability Workshop, which is currently taking place, having commenced September 27, 2016.

Natasha Daniel, Assistant Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, who presented at the workshop on behalf of Minister of Agriculture, Honourable Eugene Hamilton, explained that the European Union definition of traceability is the ability to track any food, feed, food-producing animal or substance that will be used for consumption, through all stages of production, processing and distribution. As such, it can be used to detect when and how harmful substances would have entered foods.

Farmers were informed that Government saw testing of products as a critical aspect of the agricultural process.

“We encourage you to take your samples of produce to be tested for pesticide residues before they are sold to the consumer,” Ms. Daniel said. “The Team Unity government has made this possible because the government sees the importance of food safety for the health of our citizens, the need for safe foods on our shelves and to put money into our farmers’ pockets by minimizing the recall of products from businesses and to improve quality of agricultural products. Traceability is therefore a risk management tool that offers food business operators and other authorities to withdraw or recall products deemed unsafe. Traceability should be the cornerstone of every country, including our beloved St. Christopher & Nevis’, food safety policy.”

An example of arrested food contamination that concluded with removal of the goods from trade was provided.

“In the autumn of 2004, during standard random monitoring of dioxin levels in milk at a Dutch farm, national competent authorities found high levels of dioxin,” Ms. Daniel said, noting that the farm was immediately barred from trade, and the tracing of the product through the food chain commenced. “This revealed that the source of contamination was clay, used in food processing to separate high quality potatoes from lower quality ones. The dioxin-contaminated clay had contaminated the potato peels used as feed for animals. The Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) was used to trigger the swift exchange of information between national authorities on the problem.

It was quickly established that the clay had also been supplied to several food processing companies located in the Netherlands, Belgium, France and Germany.”

The outcome was that authorities swiftly identified the businesses that used the clay and over 200 farms which had received the potentially contaminated potato peels were barred from trading. Thanks to the traceability system, action was taken in time and the contaminated products never reached the consumers.

The current training will ensure that similar swift action will take place in the Federation should an instance of food contamination to be identified.

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