REMARKS BY MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
HONOURABLE MARLON PENN
WORLD FOOD SAFETY DAY
Warm greetings to everyone on the occasion of World Food Safety Day, which is celebrated every year on June 7th.
World Food Safety Day presents an opportunity to highlight the importance of being more conscious of what we eat - in order to prevent, detect, and manage foodborne illnesses, and achieve better health.
Food safety is a significant global public health issue; common in developed and developing countries. There are more than 200 known diseases transmitted through food. Unsafe foods contribute to poor health conditions, such as impaired growth and development, non-communicable or communicable diseases, and mental illness. Globally, one in ten people are affected by a foodborne disease every year.
When food is safe, we can fully benefit from its nutritional value, hence the theme for this year is: “Safer Foods, Better Health”.
The good news is that most foodborne diseases are preventable. Our behavior, the way we build food systems, and how we organize food supply chains, can prevent toxic hazards; bacteria, viruses and parasites; chemical residues; and other dangerous substances from getting onto our plates.
Keeping food safe begins with farmers, and ends with you, the consumer. It also requires food hygiene in supermarkets, grocery stores, and restaurants to reduce the risk of contamination. Every person working in the food industry has a responsibility to handle and prepare food that is safe and suitable for consumption.
The community also has a very important role to play. When preparing food, remember to:
- Maintain good personal hygiene;
- Separate raw food from cooked food to prevent cross contamination;
- Cook food thoroughly;
- Keep food at safe temperatures after cooking; and
- Use safe water.
When buying food:
- Pay attention to expiration dates; and
- Report any hazards or unsafe conditions to the Environmental Health Division. Include the name of establishment, date the food was bought, the type of food, and the type of hazard you observed.
And finally, if you experience any signs or symptoms of foodborne illness, make a report to Environmental Health, or your healthcare provider.
Many Food Safety issues extend beyond the health sector, and require us to take a multisector approach. The Ministry of Health and Social Development is committed to working with our partners in Agriculture, trade, business, and other sectors to ensure a reliable supply of safe and healthy food for all the people of the Virgin Islands.
Food Safety is also a vital aspect of food security, and I welcome the recent passage of the Food Security and Sustainability Act. In line with this, the Ministry of Health and Social Development is actively reviewing and updating the Food Hygiene Regulations under the Public Health Act.
The Ministry’s Environmental Health Division continues to build capacity and provide an array of educational and enforcement services to reduce the risks of foodborne illnesses in the Territory. The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) continues to provide technical and financial assistance towards our food safety programming, and we are grateful for their support.
In closing, I encourage everyone to do your part to produce and consume Safer Foods for Better Health.
Happy World Food Safety Day!