Coconut vendors in Barbados have been urged to ensure they practise proper food hygiene, especially if they want to compete within the global multi-billion dollar coconut value chain industry.
This advice came from Senior Environmental Health Officer, Richard Bourne, as he delivered remarks at the opening of the second training workshop for the vendors. It was held at the Ministry of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Water Resource Management, Graeme Hall, Christ Church, this morning.
He stressed the need to adhere to the guidelines under the Food Safety regulations, as he reminded them that they were considered food handlers under the law.
“You are now functioning under the Health Services Food Hygiene Regulations. In this regard, it is crucial that you place good food handling practices on your priority list, in an effort to deliver a product of the highest quality to the consumer,” Mr. Bourne said, as he reminded them of a number of requirements.
They include: having a portable water supply for washing; the proper storage of coconuts; cleansing and sanitising of equipment, and wearing clean and appropriate clothing and hair/beard coverings.
Mr. Bourne also reiterated that the health and safety requirements extended beyond the customer, stating: “Your service does not end with the delivery of coconut water and jelly to the customer.
“It also entails wearing protective clothing to reduce the risk of contracting leptospirosis while harvesting the nuts; exhibiting a high level of personal hygiene practices during processing; wearing appropriate attire… and last but not least, removing the shells and clearing the site at the end of a day’s work.”
The Senior Environmental Health Officer, however, expressed concern at the relatively low turnout to the some of the sessions. He said, in spite of this, the Ministries of Health and Agriculture and the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute were committed to sensitising local coconut vendors about various ways in which they can improve their operations.
“In order to be competitive on the world stage, food safety must be placed high on your priority list. Therefore, let us continue to work together to ensure that the products offered to the customer are of the highest quality,” he appealed.
The training continues with half-day sessions on Wednesday, May 16, and Tuesday, May 22, in the conference room at the Ministry of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Water Resource Management. All sessions are scheduled to begin at 9:00 a.m. and end at midday.
The training workshop is designed to help vendors improve their operations, not only from the health and safety aspect, but also provide financial and business development advice. It is part of the wider European Union-funded Caribbean Coconut Industry Development Project, being executed in association with the International Trade Council, aimed at revitalising the industry.