Against the backdrop of increasingly stringent food safety measures being implemented in North America and which threaten to place restrictions on food imports from the Caribbean, Agriculture Minister Dr Leslie Ramsammy announced last week that government will introduce a Food Safety Bill during the next sitting of Parliament.
This is the first major official pronouncement on the issue of national food safety since the 2010 passage of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) in the United States.
The Act attaches a slew of new regulations to the importation of foods into the United States.
While other Caribbean countries, most notably Jamaica, have moved to put their food safety houses in order, little has occurred in Guyana to suggest that the country is moving with any great haste to improve its food safety laws and hence protect a potentially lucrative North American market.
Addressing a seminar for bakers, organised by the National Milling Company on Wednesday June 4, Ramsammy said the proposed Food Safety Bill will “insist on good manufacturing practices.” He added that it will not be an option that manufacturers will have regarding whether they comply or not. “When the Bill becomes an Act it will not be an option, you will have to practice good manufacturing practices.”
And according to Ramsammy, the proposed legislation has to do with more than ensuring that Guyanese and guests of Guyana, can be assured that they are having safe and nutritious food.
He said that the proposed new legislation was also about “the people who live in other countries to which we export.”
Addressing attendees at the seminar, the minister declared that bakeries will not be exempt from the rules, adding that “unless Guyana adopts good manufacturing practices in our everyday businesses we will be left out of the global business environment and global trade.” Asserting that Guyana cannot sit on the sidelines, he called on manufacturers to “join the global effort to ensure that food is healthy and safe.”