Health officials issue food warning ‘prepare for the unexpected’ Loop Jamaica

The content originally appeared on: Jamaica News Loop News

As Jamaica joins other Carribbean countries to commemorate World Food Safety Day on June 7, health officials are warning that foodborne diseases (FBDs) remain a public health concern in the Caribbean and across the world.

Officials from the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) says according to data, one in 10 people worldwide fall ill from contaminated food each year. In addition increasing numbers of FBD cases and outbreaks have been reported across CARPHA member states (CMS), especially in the tourism and cruise ship industry. 

“FBDs can cause morbidity, mortality, and economic burden of countries; it can also pose significant economic, social, and reputational impact on trade and tourism, the release from CARPHA revealed.

CARPHA made the statement as it joins the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the World Health Organization (WHO) to commemorate World Food Safety Day on June 7th. 

The theme for 2024 “Food safety: prepare for the unexpected” reiterates that food safety is a collective responsibility, and everyone needs to play their part.

 “At all levels, we must be prepared to intervene if food safety is compromised, such as:

Governments can update national food safety emergency response plans, strengthen national food control systems, increase surveillance and coordination capacities, and improve communication.Food businesses can improve food safety management plans, collaborate, and share lessons learnt and improve communication with consumers.Consumers can ensure they know how to report or respond to a food safety incident.

Dr Lisa Indar, Director, Surveillance, Disease Prevention and Control Division at CARPHA stated that “Food safety is crucial for supporting economic productivity in the tourism dependant, vastly culinary diverse Caribbean region.   CARPHA is contributing to regional food security through improving food borne diseases surveillance and food safety in its 26 Member States.”

In a 2021 WHO study, the incidence of FBD was 1 in 11 during the mass gathering events, such as cricket matches, carnival, food festivals, etc.[2] With this in mind and as the Caribbean is hosting the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup (May/June 2024), CARPHA continues to be proactive and lead the regional public health response.  The Agency has collaborated with both health and tourism stakeholders of the six Caribbean Cricket World Cup (CWC) host nations (Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Guyana, Saint Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago) to strengthen surveillance, early warning and response, laboratory, health, prevention and control and food safety capacity in preparation for CWC and other mass gathering events.

During this preparatory phase from February to May 2024, almost 900 food vendors likely to be selling food at the cricket stadiums/and its environs, were trained in Food Safety for Food Handlers for Mass Gathering Events.Additionally, a Mass Gathering Surveillance System was developed and implemented to capture the six internationally recognised potential syndromes, which includes gastroenteritis.

To adequately address FBD and food safety in the Caribbean, CARPHA is implementing an integrated foodborne diseases program, integrating the epidemiological, laboratory, environmental and veterinary aspects of FBD surveillance and response, into a coordinated programmatic approach, regionally and nationally. Its components of surveillance, training, capacity building, outbreak investigation, research, preparation and control, are addressing FBD in a wholistic manner to promote food safety in the Region. CARPHA has also trained and certified over 500 persons in nine of its Member States in advanced food safety and has developed a suite of hospitality, health, food safety and environmental standards, to provide a basis for the development of an effective food safety program for the hospitality industry. 

CARPHA remains committed to working with partners and Member States to strengthen regional food safety through multi-sectoral collaboration, capacity building activities, exchange of information and communication.