EDITORIAL: Close gaps in food laws


THE Barbados Government’s most important function is to safeguard the well-being of all citizens. This admission came this week from Minister of Health John Boyce, who noted that Government will continue to take responsibility for monitoring the entire food industry, to ensure that there are no breaches of the regulations.
By his own admission, however, he has noted that “there are gaps in the current food laws” and “there is need to develop modern risk and science-based approaches in keeping with the ever-changing legal and regulatory standards within the global food industry”. This suggests that there is still some work to be done to ensure that these gaps are closed and indeed the well-being of citizens is protected, and we indeed can be ensured a safe supply of food at all times.
Recently, there have been concerns expressed about the removal and/or manipulation of labels on food products, given the serious health threats to consumers. There are issues as well relating to inconsistencies with food labels, and labels which cannot be clearly understood or read. Let’s also take into account the whole issue of product recalls and its impact on consumers. Thankfully, it has been noted that Barbados, like other CARICOM nations, has implemented a new Regional Standard, which is said to be in harmony with Codex Standards for the labelling of pre-packaged foods. But again, the Minister has pointed out the need to make sure the existing legislation is enforced. Given that Barbados also imports the majority of its food, we need to pay attention to our importers and distributors and ensure that they are abiding by the rules as well and not taking any shortcuts.
This whole talk about food laws comes at a good time, given the constant discussion about the need for Barbadians to eat healthier and the need to reduce the incidence of chronic non-communicable diseases in Barbados. We have to ensure that Barbadians are benefiting from the foods they consume. Can you imagine what could possibly happen if a batch of tainted food is consumed by a segment of the Barbadian public, and then no one is really held accountable in the process?
As a key official pointed out this week, there must be some regulation as well when it comes to animal feeds, as the feed fed to various animals must be fit for their consumption, since those animals will eventually make it from a farm to a plate. Therefore, the right food control systems must be in place, to ensure that farmers and others in the agricultural community are doing their best to comply with the required standards.
Farmers must also ensure that their produce is fit for human consumption and the relevant authorities must work to ensure that those in the agricultural sector are operating by the highest standards.
And speaking of the agricultural sector, the issue of praedial larceny must be better tackled, since there is the possibility of citizens consuming unsafe produce if the crop thieves steal produce that has recently been sprayed.
As we can see, there are a number of issues to be tackled, but as we seek to close the gaps in our food laws and take this whole activity of monitoring the food industry seriously, we can make progress, one step at a time.

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