Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : June 19th 2014 Contents BG8 NEWS
BUSINESS GUARDIAN www.guardian.co.tt JUNE 2014 • WEEK THREE
Manufacturers have spent
hundreds of thousands
of dollars to become
compliant with the
standards in the Food
Safety and Modernisa-
tion Act (FSMA), said Jeremy Matouk, man-
aging director, National Canners Ltd (NCL).
Matouk was speaking Tuesday after the cer-
emony to update the media about the 60th
Summer Fancy Food Show to be held at the
Jacob K Javits Convention Centre, New York.
The show will be held between June 29 and
July 1. The ceremony was held at the Ministry
of Trade, Nicholas Towers, Independence
In November 2013, officials from the Food
and Drug Administration (FDA) from the Unit-
ed States visited T&T to conduct audits on
factories which wanted to be compliant. Com-
pliance with the Food Safety Modernisation
Act (FSMA) means that T&T Food and Bev-
erage businesses with operations in the US
would be compliant to continue doing business
According to the FDA Web site the FSMA
"was signed into law by President Obama on
January 4, 2011. It aims to ensure the US food
supply is safe by shifting the focus of federal
regulators from responding to contamination
(of food) to preventing it."
Referring to the last audit, Matouk said the
requirements for compliance under the FSMA
for some manufacturers were different com-
pared to others. Matouk said NCL had to do
some "cleaning up. We had to do a lot of floor
preparation, we had to a lot of pest control
improvements and we had to do a lot of doc-
umentation, documentation had to be in order.
The inspector sits in your meeting room and
calls for this file or that file, you better have
that on hand. Recall procedures, your step by
step manufacturing process must be properly
documented and scientifically proven to be
Asked what the changes cost, he said: "Most
people spent six figures to become compliant,
I know some who spent seven figures to
become compliant. The US market is important
to us and if you want to stay
there, you either be ready and
be certified or say goodbye."
Though the audit was a
rigourous one, the FDA did not
"come here with the intention
of shutting us down," he said.
Matouk said T&T manufac-
turers had good notice for the
inspection since three months
notice was given. But notice is
not always given. This means the
FDA can show up unannounced
at any time. If a manufacturer
rejects the FDA official, they can
be banned from trading with the
US.Even as Matouk contemplates
deepening his footprint in the
US market, he faces a big chal-
lenge of sourcing labour.
"People don t want to work.
The work ethic in this country
has deteriorated very badly. I
have been saying it since 2004."
Asked whether Government s
social programmes have con-
sumed labour, Matouk said it has
not "only consumed the labour,
it has spoilt the labour. They
offer the concept that you don t
have to do any work, or little
Recruiting labour within the Caricom mem-
ber states has not been ruled out.
"I have to get people who are legal who can
work here. I don t care what someone s nation-
ality is once they have an NIS number and a
work permit for T&T, I am happy to employ
them. I have spoken tirelessly about this (to
the Government), I have spoken till I am blue
in the face. I think they needs to start scaling
back and making sure the money they spend
on welfare reaches those who truly need it. A
lot of that money is reaching people who don t
really need it."
Asked how bad is the problem of finding
labour, he said: "All the manufacturers have
had the same problem. Some of them have
been able to automate, but when you are in
specialty food, there is a limit to how much
automation you can do. Automation tends to
favour manufacturing the same product over
and over again. You can t automate making
kuchela, it has a high labour component."
While assistance has already been given to
manufacturers adhering to regulations, Matouk
called on Trade Minister Vasant Bharath to
increase the assistance.
"We ve seen some assistance, but it needs
to continue because the regulations are becom-
ing more and more demanding. The recent
FDA audit was a rigourous audit and companies
speant a lot of money getting ready. To
ExporTT s credit, they did provide us with
consultants who helped to get us ready for
the audit, but there are more food regulations
to come. This is the beginning; this is not the
end. It s going to get stricter and stricter and
therefore the costs of doing business are going
He said as the cost of doing business in the
US market increases, small and medium enter-
prises would not be able to export if they can t
meet the FSMA requirements. Matouk said
the provision of consultancy services and tax
breaks for companies that spend "the dollars"
to get themselves compliant and ready is
"It s not like 20 years ago. Twenty years
ago, you make a good product, you register
the shipment abroad and that was it. Now
they (the FDA officials) can come to your plant
anytime and they find you out of compliance,
you are put on notice or you could even be
banned from shipping. It s must stricter and
we must take cognisance."
He said the food manufacturing sector is
important and has a tremendous amount of
"valued added." Referring to his own company,
Matouk said 99.9 per cent of his ingredients
are sourced from T&T.
"If the sector is to have a strong export
future, it needs to meet all the regulations and
to meet all those regulations. We need con-
sultancy services. We need financial assistance.
We need institutional assistance as well. For
instance, T&T does not have accredited lab-
oratories for some of the tests that are required.
We need to establish that in T&T," he said.
He said T&T needed certifying authorities
for the canning industry.
"I have to use certifying authorities in the
United States. You have no choice, if you don t
have the certification, you are not shipping."
Benefits of being FSMA compliant
Meeting FSMA requirements improves qual-
"When you have a plant that is spick and
span, when you have all your procedures prop-
erly documented, there is less chance of non-
conformance, there are less mistakes, there is
more consistent quality."
Matouk said his staff is more motivated as
they feel a renewed sense of importance. He
said being FSMA complaint raises NCL s "gain",
eventually making its goods more competi-
After the initial spend, you get the benefits,
we are seeing the benefits. We are seeing less
non-conformance, more consistent quality,
different attitude from the employees. They
realise it (FSMA compliance) is serious. You
are feeding people, and in the food industry,
you can poison people if you are not careful."
T&T companies intending to
display at the show:
Carib Brewery Ltd
Chatak Food Products
RHS Marketing Ltd
KC Confectionery Ltd
National Canners Ltd
Associated Brands Industries Ltd
NCL United States-based
Food manufacturers cry for labour
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