Caribbean Countries to Receive Meat Safety Training Based on International Food Safety Standards

Public health and veterinary officials from 15 Caribbean community (CARICOM) countries will receive food safety training here this week, with a focus on meat hygiene. The training will emphasize the Codex principles of meat hygiene which have been developed by the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC). The principles cover hygiene provisions for raw meat, meat preparations and manufactured meat from the time of live animal production up to the point of retail sale.
Officially titled the Joint FAO/Switzerland Caribbean Food Safety Capacity Building Workshop on Foods of Animal Origin, the event will take place on Tuesday, October 17 and Wednesday, October 18, from 8:30am to 5:30pm at the Coco Palm Resort in Rodney Bay, St Lucia.
The two-day workshop is organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Government of Switzerland, in close collaboration with the Caribbean Agricultural Health and Food Safety Agency (CAHFSA), the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Physical Planning, Natural Resources and Co-operatives of St. Lucia and the World Health Organization (WHO).
“Food safety begins with robust food laws and regulations which must be implemented by all stakeholders in the food chain and enforced rigorously and effectively by the control authorities. Codex standards can be applied at the international, regional or national levels in order to protect the health of consumers and ensure fair practices in the food trade,” said Mrs. Awilo Ochieng Pernet, Former Chairperson of the CAC (and representing the Swiss Federal Office of Food Safety and Veterinary Affairs.
The main objective of the workshop is to increase awareness for food safety particularly in the meat sector (beef, pork, lamb, poultry) using Codex food safety guidelines. Participants will also have an open discussion on issues related to the impact using antimicrobial drugs on food safety, as well as resistance to antimicrobials within the sector.
“FAO’s work on antimicrobial resistance in the Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) region started in 2017. We aim to address these issues and their relationship to food safety to assist countries to develop their national action plans. As part of the Tripartite Alliance formed by the FAO, WHO and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE); FAO embraces the One Health approach to reduce/minimize/contain Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) under the four pillars of the FAO Action Plan on AMR for the food and agriculture sector: awareness, evidence, governance, and best practices,” said Marisa Caipo, FAO Food Safety and Quality Officer and Regional Focal Point on AMR, FAO Regional Office for LAC.
“Many Caribbean countries are currently in the process of modernizing their food safety regimes to bring them in line with international standards. We hope that with the training received, the workshop participants will be able to contribute to the modernization of the meat hygiene system in their own countries when they return home,” said Cedric Lazarus, FAO Livestock Development Officer for the Caribbean.
The Codex Alimentarius, or Food Code, is a collection of standards, guidelines and codes of practice developed, maintained and promoted by the CAC, which was established in 1963 by FAO and WHO. Its mandate is to develop international food safety and quality standards to protect the health of consumers and ensure fair practices in the food trade.
The CAC currently has 188 members, 187 member countries and one member organization, the European Union (EU). The FAO/WHO Regional Coordinating Committee for the Latin American and the Caribbean Region (CCLAC) has 33 members and it is currently chaired by Chile.
During last year´s CCLAC meeting, the member countries identified several critical and emerging issues in food safety for the region. Two of these issues, regulatory landscape and Antimicrobial Resistance, were the topics ranked as first and second priorities, respectively. This workshop intends to address these two critical issues as they relate to the meat sector in the Caribbean.
“By focusing on these issues, we can continue to build on the work that started with the approval of the CARICOM Model Food Safety Bill by the Legal Affairs Committee and the completion of a Regional Survey on Antimicrobial use, monitoring, control, distribution and sale in the Member States; work that was done in collaboration with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) earlier this year,” explains Dr. Gavin Peters, CAHFSA Animal Health Specialist.
Other workshop objectives include a) drafting a baseline for a meat hygiene assessment of member states; b) providing guidelines for the development of a food safety surveillance system in the meat sector for the region; and, c) improved and enhanced understanding of the components of a modern meat hygiene system that operates from farm to fork. Participants are also expected to gain a greater understanding of Codex food safety standards and their application, specifically as they relate to meat hygiene.
The recently drafted CARICOM model Food Safety Bill will be highlighted as an example of modern primary food safety legislation and will be the backbone for initial steps toward the design and implementation of a risk based meat inspection system.