Reports have shown that approximately seventy-seven million people in the Americas contract some type of foodborne illness on a yearly basis. In this regard, the United Nations recognized today, June 7, as World Food Safety Day to promote efforts that ensure the safety of our foods. Dr. Miguel Figueroa, the Director of Food Safety, at Belize Agriculture Health Authority, BAHA, spoke about the role BAHA plays to keep our foods safe.
Dr. Miguel Figueroa – Director of Food Safety: “We have inspectors conducting inspection at the different processing facilities: slaughterhouses and other processing facilities, those that manufacture food. They have to comply with what we call good manufacturing practices and or HACCP ( Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points). The food safety chain from the farm to the plate, that is why it is called the food chain so everyone on that food chain is responsible for food safety, somewhat responsible. At the farm level, they have to ensure that whatever animal goes to the processing facility or to the slaughterhouse: one it is not sick, two that they haven’t pumped some chemical into it like antibiotics or so before slaughter. Every drug you give an animal they have a withdrawal period so they have to adhere to the withdrawal period and so they are responsible for that, then we as BAHA do the certain inspection. We have the Animal Health Department that does an inspection at some of those farms to ensure that the animals are healthy or that they have been vaccinated or so forth. From the farm it goes to the processing, they have to comply with good manufacturing practices, hygienic practices, from that it goes to the transport, the distribution of that product, to the different outlets: you have retail shops, the supermarkets and the restaurants. During transportation they have to ensure that the food that they are transporting is being transported in a safe manner. Now at that point, there are several entities involved to monitor that which is public health and BAHA.”
We also consume foods that are imported into the country, Figueroa explained the measures in place to ensure the safety of these imported foods.
Dr. Miguel Figueroa – Director of Food Safety: “We do what we call an import risk assessment so any product, food commodity that comes into Belize we have to do what you call a risk profile to determine if there is any risk involved with that product that comes in. Before we can grant an import permit we have to do that study and when it comes to recalling, we constantly every day have recalls in the United States and we import a lot of things from the US. Every day they are reporting recalls in the U.S. whether it be because of some misbranding or something, maybe an allergen is in the product and they haven’t claimed it, it’s not there, they do recalls. The last recall was with romaine lettuce that we actually put in a press release, we did a press release, we said look we will stop importing romaine lettuce for some time until they situation has been solved in the US. When it comes to recalling we coordinate a lot with public health.”
World Food Safety Day is being celebrated under the theme “food safety is everyone’s business”.