Sunday, April 21, 2024

Barbados ‘vulnerable’ to food fraud


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Despite having “pretty strong” food safety and security measures, Barbados is still vulnerable to food fraud, says Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) representative Ena Harvey.

During the fifth annual Barbados Food, Law and Industry Conference yesterday at Accra Beach Hotel, Harvey identified honey as one food where fraud could be a problem.

“Honey is a food product subject to food fraud internationally. If we are to produce high-quality authentic Barbadian honey, we need to have the laboratory capacity and research and development capacity to prove that our honey is genuine and authentic and even organic,” she said.

On the world market, adulterated honey is generally honey mixed with other sugar syrups from plants like sugar cane, corn, or rice. They can be cheaper and easier to produce than honey.

While it is legal to sell honey blends and they are not likely to be harmful, they might have different nutrient profiles, sweetness levels, glycaemic indexes, and have undergone different processing. These blends need to be labelled so people know what they are paying for.

The Barbados Apiculture Association is seeking to reduce honey imports and increase local honey production as Barbados was “a diamond in the rough” when it came to honey production.

Beekeepers are presently undergoing training organised by IICA, the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security and the Argentinian government.

Harvey identified other areas of vulnerability such as praedial larceny and the high food import bill and called for the establishment of a food fraud task force.

Even so, the agricultural expert praised the work of the Veterinary Services, the Government Analytical Services and the Pesticide Control Board.

“There are a whole lot of personnel trained in Barbados and across the region and certified in laboratory techniques such as DNA profiling to prove something is authentic,” she said.

“We need to pull all these systems together because food fraud requires not only the sciences, but also business – what do they gain by addressing food fraud? It requires an intersectoral and multipronged strategy.”

Featured speaker, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, Terry Bascombe, said law and policy had to play an important role in how food is grown, transported and consumed.

He said his ministry recognised the need to import food but also recognised there was a “significant” portion of food Barbados could produce. Bascombe spoke about the Farmers Empowerment and Enfranchisement Drive (FEED), an initiative to return “lost” agriculture to its original purpose. It is also geared to bring youth into agriculture.

“We need to get the youth to understand agriculture is not just playing in the dirt and there is no better way to do that than to enlighten them about the use of technology in agriculture,” he said.

FEED was launched in May and will be targeting 1 400 farmers with the goal of having them certified.

The permanent secretary also highlighted the designation of a special envoy to Suriname who will be helping to implement the Brokopondo Agreement, of which agriculture was an important aspect. He said Barbados would be seeking a cheaper source of food and looking to grow food in Suriname to ship back to Barbados. (CA)

Barbados ‘vulnerable’ to food fraud



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