By Alexis R. Milan Staff Reporter
The Belize Agricultural Health Authority (BAHA) in partnership with the Joint Institute for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (JIFSAN) held a week-long workshop to train farmers on good agriculture practices.
According to Dr. Miguel Figueroa, BAHA’s food safety director, the training is geared toward ensuring that Belize, which produces fruits and vegetables for export, utilizes proper food safety practices.
Figueroa indicated that the initial training only included technical experts such as BAHA trainers who would then go out to the field to provide training to farmers throughout the country. Representatives from Marie Sharps, Hot Mama’s, and the papaya industry were also present at the workshop at the Biltmore Hotel.
Figueroa identified the use of pesticides on crops as one of the major challenges to food safety in Belize’s agriculture sector.
He added that there are other challenges including microbiological contamination to crops on farms but the goal of the training is to minimize such risks.
Figueroa added that BAHA received funding for the workshop through an initiative with the Inter-American Development Bank.
Dr. James Rushing, manager of international training programs for JIFSAN, said Belize has had very few food safety issues and JIFSAN is trying to help Belize establish preventative programs to avoid food safety issues.
Rushing said the one-week training would cover only the basics and added that food safety training is a continuous effort that needs to be undertaken by the industry, companies and employees.
Rushing added that during the workshop in Belize they would be trying to identify specific strategies and practices that could be implemented in the country.
Rushing said that JIFSAN would remain in contact with BAHA over the next few months to follow up on the progress made during the course of the workshop.
Rushing explained that JIFSAN usually does training programs with directive from the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in countries that have experienced food safety risks.
Rushing said JIFSAN was invited by BAHA to do the training in Belize and said BAHA sponsored the cost of the training.
JIFSAN was established between the FDA and the University of Maryland in April 1996. The Institute is a jointly administered, multi-disciplinary research, education and outreach program.