Health ministry tackling food borne diseases

Health Minister Julius Timothy says his ministry is working “feverishly” to ensure the elimination of food borne diseases on the island.

Food borne illnesses place a burden on the countries health care services, according to Timothy, who was delivering a radio address today as Food Safety Month comes to an end this week.

“Over the last several years, we have been burdened by the outbreaks of gastroenteritis including a recent virus outbreak which resulting in several of individuals being hospitalized and several staying home from work,” he said.

Timothy said food is the usual means of transmission and in that regard, his ministry has set strict guidelines and policies on food safety, geared at ensuring the population’s health.

“One strategy is to educate the public through the media, school health education and community and group education. A partnership approach is also essential,” he said.

He said food safety is essential in achieving food security and it is an indispensable facet of the country’s national development thrust.

“Dominica’s economy depends heavily on the tourism product and safe food is an important pre-request for establishing a sustainable tourism industry,” he said.

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3 Comments

  1. commentator
    March 16, 2010

    VCI,

    are you nuts? Dominica you are talking about? I once reported to the environmental health department that my mother’s house was being plagued by neighbours constantly burning all kinds of unknown rubbish and causing a nuisance to the lady’s well being. They told me to call the firebrigade.
    You talking about food safety standards? Obviously you are well informed about food safety since what you describe is exactly the things that we do in the UK . But in Dominica?

  2. Vieille Case Itassian
    March 15, 2010

    Resubmitted due to typographical errors in my previous submission.

    Mr. Minister you need to have the correct focus in order to adequately tackle Food Borne Illness in Dominica. While I applaud your plans to educate the public through the media, school health education and community and group education, the focus must not be on the consumers, they are not the major players in the spread of foodborne illness. The focus must be on the food service personnel who prepare, handle and serve food. You can educate the public as much as you like but if the food service personnel and the food service establishments are not operating as they should, it is a virtual waste of resources educating the public and hoping to reduce food borne diseases.

    Your ministry need to ensure that there is enforcement of all the Food Safety Laws that have been passed yet remain only on the books. The regulationg authority, the Department of Environmental Health, still “begs” food establishments to get the minimum requirements for food service establishments. They must be given more powers to regulate food esrvice establishments.

    Mr Minister, here are a few reasons why we have foodborne illness in Dominica: 1)Too many food establishments in Dominica are lacking in structural integrity and food safety standards.2) People still prepare food in small rundown shacks, on road side and many times they are without running water, the basic necessity for good food hygiene and sanitation. 3) Many food establishments do not have proper equipment for proper temperature control of cooked and ready to eat foods. 4) Many food establishments do not have available, suitable hand wash sinks and utensil wash sinks so proper handwashuing is hardly practiced. 5 ) People still continue to use reusable (cloth) towels (probably the most unsanitary and nastiest element in a food establishment) for hand wiping. 6) Even some of the large restaurants around the island still do not have hot water on their premises. 7) Many food establishments harbour some of the major food contaminators (rats and cockroaches) and they do not have a systematic pest control program. 8) Even some of the large hotels and restaurants do not have commercial dish washers and proper utensil sanitisation is hardly practiced. I could go on listing many more of the requirements for food service establishments that are not being met but I might run out of time and space. So Mr Minister do the survey for yourself and you can determine if what I am saying are fabrications.

    Mr Minister the first thing that must be done is enforcement of all the Food Safety Laws that have been passed bu have not been enforced. Your Ministry must adopt a licensing system for food establishments. In such a system all persons wanting to open a food service establishment should have to apply for a license to operate and any granting of a permit must be dependent upon meeting certain standards or requirements determined by the Food Safety Regulations.

    The Environmental Health Department needs to come up with a more rigorous food safety and inspection system that includes demerits for violations and the issuance of fixed penalty tickets for violations especially those that can lead to food borne illness. In addition, those food establishments that do not meet the minimum requirements for food service establishments must be given deadlines for upgrading and subsequently fined and or shut down if they do not comply.

    One other recommendation would be for the Department to establish a Food Establishment Information System that allows the public to have access to the inspection reports of the food establishments so that the public can know what is the level of sanitation and hygiene of the food establishments where they eat or plan to eat.

    Food borne illness can be prevented by adopting four food safety principles; clean personnell, clean unadulterated food, clean equipment and clean food establishments and although the consumer must be vigilant about where he eats and what kinds of food he/she chooses, the greater burden rests upon the food service operator and not on the consumer.

    So the best hope for tackling food borne illness is to develop and enforce food safety regulations, to devise a stringent food safety inspection system that involves penalties for violations and to educate food service personnell including managers and supevisors in food safety and hygiene.

    • STA
      March 17, 2010

      Fully agree with your suggestions and point that you are bring to the table.I believe proper monitoring of food should be taking place in Dominica.All food vendors are to abide by simple rules of form.For Example the simplest one is the use of hair nets.I have seen many persons serving food to other and they do not have hair nets.
      I also think the different food vendors should inspected for proper facility design and construction.These simple things will help other than educating the public.As well the persons doing the inspection should be trained well enough to make correct judgments.We do not live in a perfect world therefore there will be instances where non conformities will exist but could be allowed.

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