A Pacific Food Safety Alliance

A new food safety alliance has been set up in the Pacific region thanks to a recent learning journey in the Caribbean.

The learning journey – 'Meeting Food Safety Standards for Product and Process Certification of Agri-Food Enterprises and for Good Health and Nutrition' – took six Pacific participants in the Caribbean–Pacific Agri-Food Forum on a journey of discovery to Trinidad, where they were introduced to the importance of food safety standards in promoting trade.

The delegates, from Vanuatu, Tonga, Papua New Guinea, Fiji and Kiribati were hosted by Premier Quality Services Limited (PQSL) at the Trincity Industrial Estate, Trinidad. Three days into the five-day learning journey, they formalised plans for the Pacific food safety alliance.

The Alliance aims to encourage the establishment of food standards in order to break existing trade barriers that have plagued the Pacific and hampered the exploitation of markets within and outside of the region.

Dr Jimaima Lako, lecturer at the University of the South Pacific (USP), Fiji, said it will be called the Pacific Region Food Safety Alliance. Dr Lako said each delegate will now go back to their respective countries with a mandate to develop and establish their own food safety associations, which will be linked with this regional body.

"The major issue we are all facing is that there are no food standards for the Pacific region so the main function of this Alliance is to ensure that we address the food standards issue," he said.

Ruth Amos, Manager at the Vanuatu Food Technology Development Centre and Analytical Unit, Ministry of Trade, explained the difficulties their countries have faced in trading due to the absence of food safety standards.

"Our difficulties in trading stems from the fact that we haven't been working closely to assist each other and different island countries because of our isolation. Pulling together, we can use each other's expertise and draw on each other's experiences to assist us in getting help with small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to build up and improve the process and to get the type of certification that would help them to do good business and sell safe products.

"Through this alliance, I can see something better for us in the future than the level we are currently at. Food safety is a real difficulty in our country and it is very difficult for us to compete, even nationally, because we do not have these food safety standards in place," Ms Amos said.

CTA's Senior Programme Coordinator, Science and Technology Policy, Judith Ann Francis, said she was very pleased to witness how the group had taken its own initiative to improve their food safety standards and meet the international standards, adding "This is a process which CTA can support."

She said that the programme not only aimed to train individuals in good manufacturing practices (GMP) and hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP), but also to give the participants the skills they need to go home and train others.

Inline JudithDelegates from Trinidad and Tobago the Pacific region on the final day of the conference held at Premier Quality Services Limited, Century Drive, Trincity Industrial Estate, Macoya. Standing from left: Nirmala Debysingh-Persad, Manager Packinghouse, NAMDEVCO, Trinidad; Sean Victor, Facilitator; Ruth Amos, Manager, Food Technology Development Centre and Analytical Unit, Ministry of Trade, Vanuatu; , Huey Cuffie, CEO PQSL; Judith Ann Francis, CTA Senior Programme Coordinator for Science and Technology Policy; Theodore Reddock, Acting Executive Director of the Trinidad and Tobago Bureau of Standards; Margaret West-Weston, Facilitator. Stooping: Frank Vidinamo, Lecturer, PNM Gnitech, Papua New Guinea; Ellison Floyd-Tobas, Std. Officer, Trinidad and Tobago Bureau of Standards, Trinidad; Emire Kabuta, Dietician at the Ministry of Health and Medical Services, Kiribati; William Nano, Lecturer in the Agricultural Department of PNG Unitech, Papua New Guinea; Dr Jimaima Lako, Lecturer at the University of the South Pacific, Fiji.

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