Be Pre­pared for the Kitchen Mon­i­tor

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL -

Next Tues­day, the Saint Lu­cia Bureau of Stan­dards (SLBS) will visit a num­ber of food es­tab­lish­ments in Cas­tries with an aim to raise pub­lic aware­ness of food hy­giene and safety. The ex­er­cise dubbed ‘Kitchen Mon­i­tor – Are you cook­ing safely?’ is one of the ac­tiv­i­ties slated to mark Novem­ber as Busi­ness Month.

The out­reach pro­gramme will see a num­ber of groups who are in the food prepa­ra­tion busi­ness over the years but have not been sen­si­tized to the is­sues of food safety and food hy­giene. The SLBS claims that food safety is a huge pub­lic health con­cern with a num­ber of emer­gency healthcare and hos­pi­tal­iza­tions be­ing of a di­rect re­sult of food borne ill­nesses con­tracted par­tic­u­larly by the con­sump­tion of food of­fered for sale un­der poor con­di­tions.

Pub­lic health cam­paigns to stop food borne ill­nesses have be­come a ma­jor pri­or­ity for health pro­mo­tion the world over. The Caribbean Pub­lic Health Agency (CARPHA) es­ti­mates the eco­nomic cost of food borne ill­nesses to the Caribbean at two to US$40 mil­lion dol­lars with the av­er­age an­nual cost of treat­ment at $21 mil­lion dol­lars.

For its part the SLBS has been of­fer­ing stan­dards and train­ing on the topic of food hy­giene and safety to providers of street food out­lets and to the agro pro­cess­ing and man­u­fac­tur­ing sec­tors in re­sponse to its man­date to pro­tect health and safety. The SLBS of­fers train­ing cour­ses in food safety and HACCP as well as a Food Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion Sys­tem, which puts food es­tab­lish­ments at the fore­front of main­tain­ing good prac­tices that pro­tects the health of their cus­tomers.

The out­reach will see the de­ploy­ment of tech­ni­cal staff of the SLBS who will dis­trib­ute in­for­ma­tion on food safety targeting both food ven­dors and con­sumers. The hope is for food ven­dors to get trained in healthy food prepa­ra­tion prac­tices and for con­sumers to look out for the dan­ger signs that are putting them at risk.

The In­ter­na­tional Mon­e­tary Fund (IMF) has ap­proved a three-year Stand-By Ar­range­ment for Ja­maica geared to­wards rais­ing liv­ing stan­dards and boost­ing em­ploy­ment.

The US$1.64 bil­lion will re­place the ex­ist­ing Ex­tended Fund Fa­cil­ity (EFF), which was sched­uled to ex­pire in March 2017.

The Fund said ap­prox­i­mately $411.9 mil­lion will be made im­me­di­ately avail­able and the re­main­der will be pro­vided in six tranches upon com­ple­tion of semi-an­nual pro­gram re­views.

Ac­cord­ing to the IMF, Ja­maican au­thor­i­ties have in­di­cated they do not in­tend to draw down on the new SBA, but will treat it as “in­sur­ance against un­fore­seen ad­verse ex­ter­nal eco­nomic shocks.”

In an­nounc­ing the new deal, IMF Deputy Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor and Act­ing Chair, Tao Zhang com­mended the coun­try for achiev­ing key tar­gets un­der the EFF.

“Macroe­co­nomic sta­bil­ity has been en­trenched, ev­i­denced by low in­fla­tion, the buildup of for­eign cur­rency re­serves, and a de­cline in the cur­rent ac­count deficit. Fis­cal dis­ci­pline and proac­tive debt man­age­ment have helped place pub­lic debt on a down­ward tra­jec­tory,” he said.

He how­ever warned that lin­ger­ing chal­lenges in­clud­ing low growth, poverty, un­em­ploy­ment and crime.

The Wash­ing­ton-based fi­nan­cial body noted growth had only reached 0.8 per cent over the three-year EFF, but im­proved to 1.4 per­cent for the first quar­ter of this year, sup­ported by gains in agri­cul­ture, man­u­fac­tur­ing, elec­tric­ity gen­er­a­tion and tourism.

“Growth in FY2016/17 is ex­pected to reach 1.7 per­cent in FY16/17. Busi­ness con­fi­dence is strong and Ja­maica’s in­ter­na­tional bonds are trad­ing close to the av­er­age rate of other emerg­ing mar­kets. Un­em­ploy­ment is still high at 13.7 per­cent in April 2016, which partly re­flects an in­crease in la­bor force par­tic­i­pa­tion,” the IMF said.

It noted that the ob­jec­tives of the new pro­gramme in­cluded more sup­port for job cre­ation, im­prov­ing pub­lic sec­tor ef­fi­ciency, strength­en­ing the so­cial safety net and re­duce pub­lic debt to 60 per cent of GDP by 2025/2026 by main­tain­ing pri­mary sur­plus at seven per­cent of GDP for the du­ra­tion of the new ar­range­ment.

Pic­tured above is the In­ter­na­tional Mon­e­tary Fund’s Deputy Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor and Act­ing Chair, Tao Zhang.

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