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Consumers urged to examine fruits, vegetables before purchase


CONSUMERS are being encouraged to examine fruits and vegetables before purchase to ensure that there is no visible indication of spoilage or contamination.

Speaking in a recent Get the Facts interview on the JIS television programme, Jamaica Magazine, environmental health specialist with responsibility for food safety and protection in the Environmental Health Unit of the Ministry of Health and Wellness, Colin Cooper, encouraged people to examine produce prior to purchasing. “Do your assessment. Does it look the way I expect it to look? Are there visible signs of things on it? Is it green? Does it look fresh?”, Cooper suggested. He added: “Filter through the leaves to ensure that there is nothing foreign there, such as insects, pests, and dirt. Start to do your own inspection from there,” he continued.

The food safety specialist said it is very important for consumers to ensure that when transporting food home after purchasing, it is done correctly and safely, noting that non-food items could also contaminate the food during transportation. He explained that there are important considerations that go into the handling of food before it gets into the hands of the consumer. These include where it was grown, how it was grown (for fruits and vegetables), the source of the irrigation water, the handling of the item when it was being reaped, whether chemicals were used on it, whether the farmer waited for the relevant time to pass for the chemical to dissipate, how it was packaged, and how it was transported to the retail outlet, among other things.

He also pointed out that consumers have the right to ask food vendors about the conditions under which the food was grown. “It’s a composite right. The right is there for you to make that enquiry. The right is there for you to look for certain critical things. A food establishment should have a licence that should be properly displayed, and the law says it should be placed in a conspicuous area that the consumer can view,” Cooper explained. He also emphasised that it is imperative for every person who is working in a food establishment to have the necessary food handler’s training and certification.

Cooper was speaking against the background of World Food Safety Day, which was observed on Monday, June 7.

The National Codex Committee (NCC), which acts as the local body answerable to the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC), the highest international body that develops food standards, recognised World Food Safety Day with a week of activities.

The activities, held under the theme ‘Safe Food Now for a Healthy Jamaica’, began on May 31 and culminated on June 7.

Food Safety refers to the conditions and practices that preserve the quality of food to prevent contamination and food-borne illnesses that can cause harm to consumers.

— JIS

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