US food safety laws closing in

-non-compliance could cost Guyana big

Public and private sector attendees at the FSMA forum

Failure to comply with the regulations set out in the 2011 United States Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) could result in Guyana losing a US market for fresh and processed foods worth more than $1.4 billion, including spices and condiments worth in excess of US$1.4 million dollars.

The eventuality, according to Managing Director of the Jamaican company, Technology Solutions Ltd (TSL), Food Technologist, Dr. Andre Gordon, could result from delinquency in the productive sector with regard to compliance with the FSMA.

In an exclusive interview with the Stabroek Business on Wednesday, Dr. Gordon named seafoods, fresh fruit, vegetables, agro-processed condiments and alcoholic beverages as being among locally produced items originating in Guyana that could find themselves shut out of the US market through failure to comply with the provisions of the Act.

A former President of the Jamaica Exporters’ Association, Dr. Gordon is in Guyana to help deliver, in collaboration with the local Government Analyst-Food & Drug Department (GA-FDD), a two-day (September 27-28) programme designed to certify individuals from the public and private sectors as Preventive Control Qualified Individuals (PSQI’s) competent to oversee the effective implementation of the provisions associated with the FSMA. Apart from technical officers employed with the Food and Drug Department responsible for overseeing the entities, the two-day Seminar is being attended by representatives of a number of local private sector companies including Banks DIH Ltd, Demerara Distillers Ltd, Sterling Products, Ricks & Sari, Jets Enterprise and Edward B. Beharry, among others.

Dr. Andre Gordon

In a presentation at the opening session, Dr. Gordon had told the participants that a point was being reached where it was becoming increasingly difficult for small importers to slip in “a couple of pallets” of goods into the USA undetected. He said that companies in the region were now contacting TSL after having received entry prohibition notification for intended imports into the USA or also actually having their goods held up at ports of entry.

The Government of Guyana, since the passage of the FSMA legislation under the Obama administration, has been largely indifferent to the need to create an enabling environment in which valuable US markets for food exports can be effectively protected. A case in point has been the failure to invest adequately in the creation of a suitably staffed and equipped technical complex that would afford the GA-FDD the capacity to provide proper certification to local foods seeking entry into the US market.   Dr. Gordon told Stabroek Business that the sense of urgency associated with compliance with the provisions of the FSMA now required that interest in the issue extend directly to the executive level in business organizations. He said that full and effective implementation of the law will inevitably affect companies’ ‘bottom lines’ so that vested interest dictates that exercises that have to do with training and sensitization attract the attention of owners and executives. He said that in the process of helping to respond to the need for Guyana to become more aware of the critical issues associated with the FSMA, TSL was also interested in reaching out to local Business Support Organizations including the Private Sector Commission, the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association.

Asked whether a point had been reached where exporters from Guyana and the rest of the region could face increasing scrutiny from the United States Food & Drug Administration (US FDA) to ensure that food imports into the USA comply with the provisions of the FSMA, Gordon told Stabroek Business that companies in the region are already beginning to be affected by communication from the US FDA notifying them of likely non-compliance. “Things could reach a point where companies in this part of the world could find themselves shut out of the United States market”, Gordon told this newspaper.