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PRESS RELEASE – Food Safety is the scientific discipline describing handling, preparation and storage of food in ways that prevent food-borne illness. This includes a number of routines that should be followed to avoid potentially severe health hazards.
The Food Safety Unit within the Environmental Health Department in the Ministry of Health, Wellness, Human Services and Gender Relations, conducts yearly inspections of food establishments to ensure compliance with food safety standards under the Public Health Act Chapter 11.01. The unit conducts island wide inspections of food establishments including, restaurants, hotels, grocery shops and the like wherever food is prepared or processed.
With elevated levels of Gastroenteritis experienced in the earlier part of the year, the Environmental Health Department has implemented a strategy to ramp up compliance levels for food establishments.
This July (2015) the department plans to publish a list of compliant food establishments who meet or surpass the 80% and over requirement under the public health act in the St. Lucia Gazette.
Sementha Tisson Environmental Health Officer attached to the Food Safety Unit says this measure is intended to do two things, ” In that way the clients or customers are aware of the business places who have met the standard set by the Public Health board. Another reason is that the non-compliant establishments will view this as some form of information to improve their standard because they themselves would want to be published on that list.”
Tisson noted that the her department will work with the non-compliant establishments up to a point. “If they refuse to be cooperative what would happen is they would be sanctioned to the public health board where they may be granted additional time or they will be asked to cease operation.”
The Environmental Health Officer pointed to some of the requirements for compliance which include, separate sinks for handling meats and vegetables, separate washrooms for staff and clients, a hand washing sink, personal hygiene with wearing of hairnets and proper attire, tidiness of fingernails as well as general cleanliness of the work environment, among others.
“We have seen light as of a month ago. The Public Health Board has been very active. They have been sanctioning persons who are not compliant to meeting and we are seeing a difference. So the public can rest assured that things are going to get better.” Tisson remarked.
To the general public Tisson stated that ultimately the power lies in their hands with the choices and decisions they make as to the food establishments they patronize. “We have given them the information. They will have a list of compliant food establishments so ultimately it’s their decision.