Minister of Health Marlon Penn is encouraging more BVIslanders to become conscious of what they eat to prevent, detect, and manage food-borne illnesses and achieve better health.
In a statement acknowledging World Food Safety Day – observed on June 7 annually – Penn said food safety is a significant global public health issue which is common in developed and developing countries. He noted there are more than 200 known diseases transmitted through food worldwide.
“Unsafe foods contribute to poor health conditions, such as impaired growth and development, non-communicable or communicable diseases, and mental illness. Globally, one in 10 people are affected by a foodborne disease every year,” the Health Minister said.
“When food is safe, we can fully benefit from its nutritional value, hence the theme for this year is: “Safer Foods, Better Health”,” Penn added.
He highlighted that keeping food safe in the territory begins with the farmers and ends with the consumers. Penn agreed it requires proper food hygiene in supermarkets, grocery stores, and restaurants to reduce the risk of contamination.
“Every person working in the food industry has a responsibility to handle and prepare food that is safe and suitable for consumption,” he said.
“The community also has a very important role to play. When preparing food, remember to maintain good personal hygiene; separate raw food from cooked food to prevent cross-contamination; cook food thoroughly; keep food at safe temperatures after cooking, and use safe water,” Penn added.
He encouraged persons who are experiencing signs and symptoms of foodborne illness to make a report to Environmental Health or to a healthcare provider.
“Many Food Safety issues extend beyond the health sector and require us to take a multisector approach. The Ministry of Health and Social Development is committed to working with our partners in Agriculture, trade, business, and other sectors to ensure a reliable supply of safe and healthy food for all the people of the Virgin Islands
,” Penn said
“Food Safety is also a vital aspect of food security, and I welcome the recent passage of the Food Security and Sustainability Act. In line with this, the Ministry of Health and Social Development is actively reviewing and updating the Food Hygiene Regulations under the Public Health Act,” the Health Minister continued.
He noted that the Environmental Health Division in his ministry continues to build capacity and provide an array of educational and enforcement services to reduce the risks of foodborne illnesses in the territory.
“The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) continues to provide technical and financial assistance towards our food safety programming, and we are grateful for their support. I encourage everyone to do their part to produce and consume Safer Foods for Better Health,” Penn said.