Even though Barbados’ food security measures are sound, Government still needs to do more to address any vulnerabilities as it relates to the threat of food fraud.
In fact, Representative of the IICA Delegation in Barbados Ena Harvey, is urging Government to establish a food fraud task force, in order to effectively combat the growing threat.
Harvey explained that vulnerabilities may not only have implications for food imports, but can also present a stumbling block to exports.
“Barbados has some vulnerabilities with respect to food fraud, especially in terms of the products that are identified as priority for agricultural development… There is certainly room for Barbados to implement a food fraud task force and implement certain strategies for addressing food fraud, so that we keep on protecting and assuring our local population as well as our visitors,” she said.
Harvey, who was speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the annual Barbados Food Law and Industry (BFLI) conference, explained that Barbados must have the capabilities to show that its produce on the export market is genuine. Pointing to the Ministry of Agriculture’s efforts to build out the honey industry, Harvey noted that worldwide, this product is heavily targeted for food fraud and therefore Government needed to do all in its power to secure Barbados’ brand of honey.
“Honey is one of the products that is subject to food fraud internationally. There is even something called honey gate in the EU [European Union] and if we are to produce high-quality Barbadian honey, then we need to have the laboratories and the research and development capacity to prove that our honey is genuine,” explained Harvey.
The IICA representative noted that in recent times there have been numerous recalls on processed food products internationally and therefore she stressed the need for vigilance about these developments, so swift action could be taken locally to protect consumers.
“Over the last two years, we had so many recalls of foods that we imported, especially processed foods, and therefore the consumer is very susceptible to buying a product and then finding out that there has been a recall in the United States or in Europe. Therefore, the single electronic window for trade has to work well to pick up any disturbances with respect to food recall, with respect to substances that are vulnerable to food fraud,” she said, noting that the wholesale and retail sectors needed to play an active role in these consumer protection protocols.
Harvey stressed, “Our distribution and retail system must have a very active and agile consumer alert, so that we protect our local consumers.”
She also told reporters that the longstanding threat of praedial larceny was amplifying the country’s vulnerabilities to food fraud, as it increases dependence on foreign fresh produce, which is often produced under unknown conditions.
“In terms of local food, praedial larceny presents a major vulnerability for us. This results in more fresh produce being imported and we do not know where this produce is coming from or whether proper traceability is in place. We need to know what those foods have been treated with, who has processed it, who has butchered it. Food fraud covers a range of issues,” she added.