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fddffThe Belize Agriculture and Health Authority is holding a five day training on good agricultural practices this week in Belize City. The workshop is being facilitated by representatives of the Joint Institute for Food and Safety Applied Nutrition, JIFSAN, a cooperative relationship between the University of Maryland the US Food and Drug Administration established about 16 years ago. The organization aims to advance sound strategies to improve public health, food safety, and applied nutrition using risk analysis principles through cooperative research, education, and outreach programs. One of responsibilities is to conduct international training programs in food safety with support of the FDA. In an interview with Love FM, Dr. James Rushing, Manager of the International Training Programs at JIFSAN elaborates more on their work with BAHA officials this week.

Dr. James Rushing – Manager International Training Programs, JIFSAN

“This is our first workshop that we developed about fifteen years ago and we conducted this week training program as a one week training program and we conducted about forty times now in international locations so we were approached by BAHA here in Belize to provide a training program for the fresh produce industry here in Belize city, the reason why BAHA is paying for this industry is because you have very few of any food safety problem here in Belize so we are here to try to assist the country with preventing problems from occurring and other countries where problems have occur frequently then the FDA will require us to go to those locations and teach so this is like a special opportunity for us to work with a country that has a very few safety problems and try to establish preventative programs so that food safety issues do not occur. One week is enough to introduce the basics to raise awareness to food safety issues to provide little bit of technical information about management programs that would help prevent food safety but food safety programs have to be carried out every day, the industry, the companies are responsible for seeing that their workers comply with good food safety practices and so it is not an issue that can be dealt within one week or even one month it has to be dealt with every day and our approach to training to food safety is to identify those practices that the industry can implement of a daily basis to help ensure the safety of food.”

The training is being attended by officials of BAHA who will in turn train farmers on the safety practices. Representatives of the papaya industry and two pepper sauce companies are also attending the training. Dr. Miguel Figueroa is the Food Safety Director at BAHA.

Dr. Miguel Figueroa - Food Safety Director, BAHA

“We do produce a lot of fruits and vegetables and so that is the reason why we did this is to train the farmers on good agriculture practices meaning food safety on farm food safety, what they do at the farm level to produce a safety product for the consumers. This is for the technical people right now and this is a train for trainers and what we do then is to go and train the farmers out there on the field, but this is specifically for the technical people and yes we have three of the biggest industries which is Hot-Momas, Marie Sharp and the Papaya Industry, but most of this training is geared to for the technical people so that they could train the farmers to implement good agricultural practices. We have a lot of problems, I guess the use of pesticides is one, you hear a lot of consumers concern about the use of a lot of pesticides on their fruits and on their vegetables and so that is really a concern and of course you have other ones like microbiological contamination of the fruits and vegetables at the fields levels to prevent that from going to the consumers then we have to educate the farmers and that is a big challenge to educate the farmers.”

JIFSAN will be in touch with BAHA in the months to follow on training programs being conducted. The training is funded by the IDB.

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