Food safety tied to good health, food handlers told

(MINISTRY OF PUBLIC HEALTH- GEORGETOWN) – Food safety is crucial to good health Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) Coordinator Dr Colin James told some 30 participants at the opening of a two-day training programme held Wednesday at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA), Timehri on the East Bank Demerara.

The two-day training which was organised by the Veterinary Public Health (VPH) Department of the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) attracted the participants from local food- manufacturing sector who vend at the CJIA. They were coursed as a part of a menu of measures to qualify for receiving their Food Handlers Identification Cards and Certificate.

Addressing participants, James said that the negative impact of unsafe food and food-borne diseases is high and growing around the world and is being blamed for some 80 per cent of deaths globally.

“The negative impact of unsafe food is enormous and it also creates a vicious cycle of disease and malnutrition, particularly affecting infants, young children, elderly and the sick,” James said.

While unsafe food and food-borne diseases constitute a significant public health problem, food diseases impede socio economic development by straining health care systems and harming national economies, tourism and trade.

“Food safety incidents, or plant and animal trans-boundary disease outbreaks have had negative impacts on public health, on trade, on peoples’ livelihood and on countries’ economies over the years,” the EOC executive said.

The EOC Coordinator confirmed that a large proportion of ready-to-eat foods is being sold by informal sector operators especially street vendors who offer it at low prices and provide essential services to workers, shoppers, travellers, school children and low-income earners. He added that the consumption of these foods is common in many countries especially in places where urbanisation is occurring at a rapid pace.

“The people who depend on such foods are often more interested in its convenience than in issues of safety, quality and hygiene,” James emphasised.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), access to sufficient amounts of safe and nutritious food is central to sustaining life and promotion of good health. Unsafe food containing harmful bacterial viruses, parasites and other chemical substances are implicated in over 200 diseases ranging from diarrhoea to cancers. WHO estimates that every year, food and water-borne diarrhoeal diseases kill about 2.2 million people, 1.9 million or 86 percent, are children.

James told that participants that in responding to the health challenges related to food safety, the MoPH strives to support food vendors to ensure that the foods supplied are safe and nutritious.

“Your support will amongst other things help the MoPH and the Government by extension to achieve its goals of reducing the cases of food poisoning especially for travellers”, James said.

Meanwhile, Andre Kellman, CJIA Deputy Chief Executive Officer (DCEO) applauded the Ministry’s effort and urged participants to take the lessons learnt and put it into practice.

He reminded those present that wholesomeness and soundness are key in maintaining international standards and guidelines as recommended by the WHO.

“As international airport, vendors need to be very mindful of the travelling public because we are being constantly verify for international standards”, Kellman said. 

Ms Davieanie Bhim, Manager of Lotus Restaurant said she plans to reinforce all food safety and hygiene rules in keeping with the regulations of the MoPH to ensure that her restaurant continues to produce safe and healthy foods at all times.

She noted that over the next two days, a total of eight staff from her restaurant will participate in the food handlers training.

Angela Melville, employee at the Eldorado Bar and Duty Free Shop praised the Ministry’s effort for always ensuring that this training is held once yearly. The second-time beneficiary said customer appreciation is top on their list, hence the shop strives to maintain healthy standards always.

“When it comes to serving customer food you must be able to send that customer away very happy and want them to come back again. It was very much beneficial because it taught us how to keep our environs very hygienic”, Melville said.

The Food Handler Training will continue Thursday and is likely to attract another 30 participants.