Against the backdrop of protracted public and private sector prevarication over the taking of steps to cater for the United States’ Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), a US diplomat here has dropped a broad hint that unless local companies whose ambitions extend to securing traction in the US market get their houses in order, they are likely to find themselves out in the cold.
At the opening of the workshop in Georgetown earlier this month, the US Embassy’s Economic and Commercial Affairs Officer, Sandra Zuniga Guzman reminded that a point had now been reached where compliance with the provisions of the FSMA had now become a matter of urgency for Guyanese exporters. It is widely accepted that for at least three years the authorities here in both the public and private sectors had been largely indifferent to the importance of implementing the provisions of the Act.
With the full and effective implementation of the of requirements of the FSMA now imminent the US embassy official said that in circumstances where local companies fail to meet the required standards local companies were likely to face difficulties in finding market acceptance for their food products on the US market.
Much later than might have been expected, a growing awareness appears to be emerging in Guyana’s manufacturing sector of the importance of adherence to the provisions of the regulations covered under the FSMA and the importance of such compliance with the preservation of existing markets and creation of new ones in the USA.
Earlier this month the Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association (GMSA) announced that it had collaborated with the Food Technology Programme of the Cooperation Extension Service of the University of Hawaii at Manoa to execute two training programmes with a view to undertaking a comprehensive examination of the requirements of the FSMA for local companies engaged in the manufacture of foods for sale in the US.
The announcement sends a signal that local companies are racing to meet the September 2018 deadline set for small companies for the implementation of the regulations relating to compliance for the Preventive Controls for Human Food rule of the FSMA, which applies to all food manufacturers who sell or distribute food in the US.
The two courses offered under the collaborative programme, Hazard Analysis & Risk Based Preventive Controls for Human Food and Principles of Food Hygiene & Food Safety, discussed the key requirements for developing and implementing a Food Safety Plan compliant with the requirements.
The GMSA told the Stabroek Business that the thirty six participants in the programme were selected from twelve large and small local food-manufacturing entities and that the participants now satisfy the training requirements for Preventive Controls Qualified Individuals capable of developing and effectively applying food safety plans to meet the requirements for individuals who manufacture, process, pack or hold food.
GMSA point person on the implementation of the FSMA regulations, Raymond Ramsar in an invited comment told the Stabroek Business that the Association was seized with the importance of its members realizing full implementation of the Preventive Controls for Human Foods rule under the FSMA since, come September, the rule will become applicable to all local companies targeting the US market.
“A number of the local processors have not yet developed food safety plans – a requirement under the Preventive Controls rule, mainly because they did not have the knowledge to do so. This training equips them to develop and implement these plans,” Ramsar told Stabroek Business. He said that training in food hygiene and food safety was also aimed at raising standards in food hygiene and safe foods preparation locally. The recently completed training, Ramsar said, “will equip manufacturers to produce food that could be sold in the US and fulfills the mandate of the GMSA to build capacity in the manufacturing sector – in this case the agro-processing subsector.”