Gov’t has to do much more for Food and Drugs Department

Like so many other key service departments within the state sector the Government Analyst Food & Drugs Department (GAFDD) continues to be afflicted by a chronic scarcity of capacity and resources to effectively execute its mandate, a circumstance that has been due, in large measure, to the indifference of government to incrementally upgrading its capabilities.

No one is suggesting that institutions like the GAFDD can be completely upgraded in one fell swoop. We do know, however, that for a number of years this department has been left understaffed, underfunded and consigned to wholly inadequate accommodation on the UG campus at Turkeyen.

What is interesting about the government’s seeming indifference to enhancing the capabilities of the GAFDD has been the fact that the disposition coincides with developments, both at home and abroad that require the Department to significantly raise its game.

At the domestic level there is the enormous challenge of monitoring and staving off the relentless inflow of expired foods and foods which, for other reasons, are deemed harmful to human health. We have seen evidence of the same problem in the importation of drugs and both are widely believed to be driven by corrupt practices. Then there are those responsibilities associated with monitoring the domestic food safety regime, a task that has become more demanding in the face of the increasing number of hotels, restaurants and other eating houses across the country as well as the rising popularity of food vending at the ‘road corner’ level. In each of these instances the GAFDD has an oversight responsibility  which it has said, time and again, it simply lacks the capability to carry out effectively.

Setting these aside there is the equally pressing need for the GAFDD to provide monitoring and testing services for the growing army of local food manufacturers whose export ambitions require that they secure the help of the Department in determining whether or not what they produce meets with the standards required under the laws of those countries whose markets our exporters seek to secure. Here, one might mention the impact which the United States’ Food Safety Modernization Act has had on the conditionalities associated with importing foods into that country, a matter on which this newspaper has reported ad nauseam.

In sum, while the GAFDD has a critical role to play in providing services that have to do with both the health of the nation and the earnings secured from exports to lucrative markets, the level of its importance is not matched by the extent of the attention that it receives from the state.

We note that on Wednesday August 30th the GAFDD held yet another of its now commonplace one-day seminars, this time, to, among other things,  “inform food handlers and other operatives in the food service industry (ready to eat food), on the importance of serving food to consumers, at the correct temperature by using warmers and chillers,” and to sensitise food handlers to their responsibility to ensure that high-risk foods are retained at the correct temperature  “during storage, transportation, distribution.”

The first thing that should be mentioned here is that Wednesday’s Seminar is reflective of an awareness on the part of the GAFDD that even in the face of its trying circumstances it has a responsibility to keep trying. On the other hand it is surely worth mentioning, in the first instance, that of the, at least, several hundreds of food vendors across Guyana only a small handful of them ever really get access to fora of this type so that for all the efforts of the GAFDD, exercises like Wednesday’s forum are no more than the proverbial drop in the ocean, the point being that even the best efforts of the Department leave the vast majority of consumers of foods prepared outside of their homes potentially vulnerable.  But there is more. Beyond the food handlers sensitisation fora – this is the second one to which this newspaper has been invited in a few months – there are the other areas of responsibility that fall to the GAFDD to which its resources do not allow it to pay nearly sufficient attention. That apart, some of its efforts to ensure that aspects of the regulations – governing the importation of foods and drugs, for example – must contend with corrupt practices that undermine the effectiveness of what they try to do and – at times – directives that appear to run counter to established rules and regulations; so that even with the best will in the world efforts to lay down the law are compromised.

A case need hardly be made at this juncture for the increasing importance of the role of the GAFDD in matters pertaining to food safety and public health, at the domestic level and at the international level, ensuring that our food exports meet the standards required by the international market. When the track record of the Department is carefully examined it is clear that its limitations repose, mainly, in the fact, that government continues to appear not to recognise the nexus between the work of the GAFDD and the well-being of the nation  and, as a consequence, is simply not doing enough to better equip it to play its important role.


Oil and gas: Complexities and public enlightenment

It is hard to think of any national issue that has secured more traction with the populace over the past two years than the issue of the discovery of oil offshore Guyana and the processes involved in recovering and exploiting the commodity for the nation’s benefit.

The Small Business Bureau…going forward

The materialization of a report that allows some insights into the performance of the much vaunted Small Business Bureau in terms of its role in kick-starting a transformation in the small business sector finally allows us the opportunity to evaluate what it has accomplished so far, what some of its failings are and what sorts of adjustments/corrective measures it might take.

Implementing 20% of state contracts to small businesses

It is widely believed that if smoothly implemented and scrupulously monitored the actualization of the provision in the Small Business Act of 2004 for a 20% allocation of government’s “goods and services” contracts to small businesses could make a major, positive difference to the country.

City Hall’s helplessness in another potentially emerging crisis

The breathing space afforded City Hall in the wake of central government’s intervention to liquidate the City’s indebtedness to Cevons Waste Management and Puran Brothers and to foot the bill for services up to the end of December last year, is over.

Strengthening Guyana/Brazil economic relations

It would be entirely fair to say that successive political administrations in Guyana have, over time, continually squandered what, unquestionably, have been glaring opportunities to take advantage of the fact that Brazil, by far this continent’s largest country with the biggest economy, shares a border with us.

Your browser is out-of-date!

Update your browser to view this website correctly.

We built using new technology. This makes our website faster, more feature rich and easier to use for 95% of our readers.
Unfortunately, your browser does not support some of these technologies. Click the button below and choose a modern browser to receive our intended user experience.

Update my browser now