Caribbean millers have been told it is imperative to continue producing wheat flour and products that meet international health and industry standards.
Minister of Small Business, Entrepreneurship and Commerce, Dwight Sutherland, stressed this today while addressing the 23rd Annual General Meeting of the Caribbean Millers’ Association at Infinity on the Beach, St. Lawrence Gap, Christ Church.
Speaking to the theme: Flour – Safe Handling, Biohazards and Recalls, he told regional delegates: “Quality control continues to be a major focus of all producers in the wheat flour sector, where potential contaminants, such as heavy metals, pesticide residues and mycotoxins, can not only pose serious threats to human health but can also negatively impact the industry’s operations.”
While pointing out that food safety risks in wheat flour, as well as hygiene and sanitation in flour mills continued to be issues on the rise, he reminded them that recently, in the United States, several brands and types of wheat flour were recalled due to possible e-coli contamination. “We all know that the fall-out from these incidents can be costly and damaging to the industry,” he added.
Barbados’ progress towards meeting standards was also highlighted, with Mr. Sutherland noting it included the establishment of a Standard for wheat flour BNS 131:1998 by the Barbados National Standards Institution (BNSI), which sets out the conditions for the production of wheat flour and the requirements of sampling and analysis.
Further highlighting the island’s efforts, he said BNSI offers a certification marking scheme as a third party independent guarantee of conformance of a product, process, or service to a Barbados National Standard.
“The scheme, of which ADM Barbados Mill Ltd., participates is governed by the Standards Act 2006-5 and the BNSI Certification Marks Regulations, 1982. The Certification Marking Scheme offered by the BNSI aims to help the development of the Barbados industry on healthy lines by assisting in the manufacture of products of quality as defined in the corresponding national standards and to serve the consumers by making goods of standard quality available to them, backed by an independent third party guarantee,” he said, while also lauding the work of CROSQ in building out the national quality infrastructure regionally.
Minister Sutherland stated that he looked forward to the finalization of ongoing work on the new draft CARICOM Regional Standard DCRS 64 Processed Foods – Wheat Flour – Specification, in order to minimize associated risks in wheat flour production and allay consumers concerns.
The draft is being revised under the CARICOM framework and is currently at the ‘Enquiry stage’, where stakeholder comments are being addressed by the Regional Technical Committee.
The regional work, he added, was being spearheaded by representatives from the Guyana National Bureau of Standards and this effort is expected to continue for the next several weeks to scientifically improve the quality and safety requirements of wheat flour manufactured in CARICOM.