Theme: Improving Food Safety
Fellow Barbadians, June 9th marks World Accreditation Day. This is a global initiative, established by the International Accreditation Forum and the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation to promote the value of accreditation. Each year, more than 600 million people around the world become ill from unsafe food, and an estimated 42,000 of those people die from their illness. This has caused the World Health Organization (WHO) and other UN partners to prioritize food safety as a public health issue, especially in developing countries. The WHO has estimated that developing countries around the world lose approximately USD 95 billion each year because of food poisoning which often has severe debilitating effects on families and communities and great lost in productivity to developing economies.
As we work together and strive to rebuild our nation from the aftermath of COVID-19, I invite you to take time out to reflect on this year’s theme which focuses on how the use of accreditation can support and improve food safety for our people. This is while bolstering the confidence of customers, suppliers, purchasers and regulators that the food we consume is of high quality and is safe.
The purpose of accreditation is to assure businesses, end users and regulators that a designated certification or inspection body, a testing facility, a calibration or a medical laboratory has the required technical and administrative competence to administer internationally accepted standards and to be impartial in its operations. Such competence is assessed by relevant accreditation bodies against international standards and requirements. In its application to food, consumers, businesses, Government and regulators are assured that the food consumed as a nation, is safe. It also assures that the health and wellness of the society and the economy are secured.
As Barbados modernizes its trade facilitation, the need for accredited systems becomes apparent. This is considering that we have embraced ASYCUDA World for the electronic exchange of certification data for agricultural goods. This mechanism offers significant opportunities and benefits in terms of streamlining our customs administration system. Confidence is increased by the use of Accreditation Bodies to give the assurance that we can rely on the accuracy of the certificates accepted into the system. This new Phytosanitary E-Certification System contributes to food security, and reduces counterfeit certificates and food losses.
I am aware that as businesses reopen across Barbados, health and safety in the workplace should be of utmost concern to all enterprises. Aside from the enormous impact that COVID-19 may have had on families and communities, the cost to businesses and economies has so far been significant. In a pandemic environment, such as this, Accreditation and the other pillars of Quality Infrastructure (QI) become all the more important. This is as quality assurance and safety standards become the driving force behind international competitiveness in a post COVId-19 era. The new business environment that is set to emerge will be one that will foster more aggressive proactive and reactive responses to risks posed to health and safety. Thus, from now onwards. it will definitely not be “business as usual”.
Whether it be a food store, a restaurant or an outdoor marketplace, all business entities must upgrade their way of doing business. They must carry out extra standard and safety checks alongside their ‘normal’ daily checks when opened for business. This is necessary to ensure that business activity is conducted within an environment that protects the health and safety of employees and customers alike. Considerable attention will need to be paid, not only to maintaining basic hygiene standards but also to other areas where greater attention is required. These refer to standards that relate to the cleaning of surfaces and walls, the use of disinfectants, ventilation, and the use of chemicals for washing and cleaning, types of washing equipment used, food preparation and others.
The Barbados National Standards Institution (BNSI) has recognized the need for a safe business environment during these times and has developed and launched a ‘Safe Business Verification Programme’. This Programme enables businesses to implement effective measures that are structured around national protocols, international occupational health and safety requirements and sound quality management principles. A Participant in the programme is assessed and, on verification, receives a stamp of approval that certifies the organization’s commitment to the health and safety of its employees, suppliers and customers. This independent assessment verifies that the organization has implemented structured Safe Business COVID – 19 protocols. In turn, this would serve to increase stakeholder confidence, enhance the business’ brand and provide a competitive advantage in this current environment.
It is clear that accreditation and accredited conformity assessment services, especially as they relate to food safety, directly contribute to the achievement of sustainable development goals. This refers especially to goals related to ending hunger and poverty and promoting good health and well-being. It is viewed that achieving these goals would contribute to the development of sustainable communities. It is therefore necessary for all of us to pause and reflect on this year’s World Accreditation Day and its significance to our National Sustainable Development.
This is our country Barbados and may God guide us through this difficult and challenging period of human history and may he bless Barbados.