Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : October 2nd 2014 Contents T&T s manufacturers have
received the thumbs up
from the Food and Drug
Administration (FDA) for
their effort in improving
Dr Carmen Booker, assistant regional
director, FDA, Latin America office, said
manufacturers were receptive to changes
to be made due to the Food and Safety
Modernisation Act (FSMA). The act was
passed in the United States in 2010, which
meant that any business belonging to the
food and beverage industry globally and
doing business with the US must be com-
pliant with the standards set out in the act.
The passing of the act has implications for
exporters from T&T who must comply if
they are to continue doing business with
"What I really see from the food man-
ufacturers here is a genuine desire to do
better, to meet our regulation. Obviously,
they want to keep exporting to the United
States, so part of the desire is to keep that
opportunity open for that business.
"What I see is a genuine desire and con-
cern to make sure that the products they
are supplying are safe. I think that is very
commendable because we don t see that
everywhere," she said in an interview with
Business Guardian last week Tuesday.
When visiting countries and companies,
Booker does not perform the function of
inspector. Her primary role is to gauge
where that particular food and beverage
industry is at. She also looks at the per-
formance of companies in relation to pro-
viding safe food. Regarding change in infra-
structure of the company, she looks at how
the company is coping with implementing
the changes to the factory in order to be
compliant with the regulations. Overall,
she examines the market to determine
whether there are unique problems in this
country as compared to Jamaica which she
This is Booker s second visit to T&T, the
first being in July 2013. Asked what were
the reactions by the manufacturers to her
2013 visit, she said they were guarded. But
during this visit, the manufacturers were
more receptive to her and even asked more
Booker said some of the trends she has
seen in the Caribbean is a "general sense
of wanting to comply, wanting to be better."
This can be compared to other countries
where the FDA has made recommendations
for change, but manufacturers were reluc-
tant to change due to cost, personnel and
FDA Latin America office covers 44
countries and territories and is located in
San Jose, Costa Rica. Its role is to function
as a liaison between the FDA and the local
ministries of health, agriculture and trade
in those 44 countries.
FDA s responsibilities include:
1. Answering questions about FDA
2. Building relationships so that the FDA
can strengthen food safety worldwide
July 2013 visit
Outlining the details of her 2013 visit to
T&T, Booker said it was mainly about find-
ing out the location of the companies in
T&T and the level which they were at in
terms of preparations.
She discovered there were business which
were small and struggling with their tech-
nology, financing and training in order to
become compliant with FSMA. The large
companies, however, were coping with their
changes easily since they had the resources
and financing to introduce change.
Booker said achieving the standards under
the FSMA is "not a sprint",but a marathon.
The visits may finish by the end of 2015.
Clearing the air on the perception which
companies would have about the FDA, she
said, "A lot of people might know the FDA
as inspectors. All they have seen from the
Food and Drug Administration is somebody
coming in and looking through their facility
with a fine tooth comb. There is a lot of
fear, there is a lot of anxiety (generally)
associated with FDA coming to visit. A
benefit of me being here is to be able to
calm some of those fears."
Booker said her visit is not about "shut-
ting companies down or block companies
from entering the US. The whole goal is to
improve food safety and improve public
health. The inspectors are a piece of that,
but they are only one piece."
Asked to explain what she noticed about
T&T s food and beverage industry when she
first came, she said: "The manufacturers
were not aware of why the process is the
way it is (the health prevention measures).
They know the rules are in place, but they
don t understand the science (behind food
She also observed there was a lot of reliance
on paper as compared to technology. Having
increased technology, though, was not a
requirement of FSMA, but she suggested
companies implement technology systems.
"Another issue was the infrastructure in
the companies. A lot of companies still rely
on paper. Tracing their products from the
beginning to the end is a paper trail which,
of course, is never perfect. You lose one piece
of the paper, then you have lost the chain
and then it can t be traced. Part of inves-
tigating a food-bourne outbreak is having
that trail. We need to be able to trace that
product all the way back to the farm."
Using technology with a backup can assist.
But for most companies, affording such
equipment is an issue as is training employ-
According to Booker, T&T and Jamaica
are the two largest exporters to the United
States. Referring to Jamaica, she said: "The
volume in general from Jamaica has been
approximately ten times compared to T&T.
Jamaica s exports are substantially larger and
is measured in port lines; we measure by
number of shipments. In 2012, we had
approximately a little over 600 and then
coming out of T&T, we had approximately
Asked what has Jamaica got correct com-
pared to T&T, she said Jamaica has a com-
mittee in place to deal specifically with
"What Jamaica has done that has been
really impressive is they have a task force
designated solely for making sure companies
in Jamaica become compliant with FSMA.
They have a FSMA secretariat which essen-
tially oversees a task force, and their sole
objective is to assist Jamaican companies
with becoming compliant.
"Stakeholders from exporting associations,
ministries of health and agriculture and
company representatives are part of the
committees. That has been essential for
them because I have one person in Jamaica
that I deal with. She co-ordinates everything
and it works fantastically."
BUSINESS GUARDIAN www.guardian.co.tt OCTOBER 2014 • WEEK ONE
T&T's food and beverage exporters' safety steps
Dr Carmen Booker, assistant regional director, FDA, Latin America office.
PHOTO: JEFF MAYERS
T&T and Jamaica are the two largest exporters to the United States. Referring to Jamaica:
the volume in general from Jamaica has been approximately ten times compared to T&T...
Jamaica has a committee in place to deal specifically with FSMA compliance.
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