COME July 2018, all persons applying for a health card to handle food will be required to undertake a basic food-handling certification training programme to increase their competency and knowledge on the acceptable standards and requirements for food safety.
This initiative is a collaborative effort of the St. Lucia Hotel and Tourism Association (SLHTA) and Environmental Health Division in the Ministry of Health and Wellness.
Chef Orlando Satchell, a Director at the SLHTA, is credited as being the driver of this initiative.
According to Satchell, “I recognize that here in St. Lucia our simple awareness is to get a health card.
“This initiative is something to say to persons to be more observant how you wash your hands, how you wash your food, where you place your food at night time, how you come to work in your uniforms.”
He explained further, “All these are part of the food industry requirements especially around the world.
“So, hopefully, this initiative is going to give persons a better understanding and appreciation of the industry but equally it’s a starting point when they go forward, when they leave St. Lucia.”
“They can be like a Nina Compton but this is a starting point,” he added.
Chief Environmental Health Officer, Wenn Gabriel articulated why this move will benefit the entire country.
He explained, “Currently what exists is that for someone to be registered as a food worker, they are only required to produce a certificate from a doctor indicating that they are medically fit.
“The SLHTA and the Ministry of Health are of the view that this is an important aspect, but it’s not the only important parameter.
“For example, we want to be sure that this person has some basic understanding, knowledge and skills with respect to the question of food safety.”
According to Gabriel, “Food safety, I don’t need to indicate to you, is very essential as it relates to the sustainability of the food service sector.
“We do not want persons who consume food at whatever establishments to become sick.
“So that, is a vital ingredient and it is against this backdrop that we are teaming-up with the SLHTA, in terms of putting in place a system where persons who intend to be food workers can receive the certificate, as well as the training which will provide them the knowledge and skills that will make them competent food workers.”
Chief Executive Officer of the SLHTA, Roderick Cherry, said his association fully supports this initiative which will improve the general food safety skills of food handlers from road side vendors to major hotels.
According to Cherry, “The thing is most of our members would have established practices for food safety and handling however not everyone would.
“We at SLHTA saw that as a very good initiative to really raise the standards.
“As such, we have decided to partner with the Department of the Environment and the Ministry of Health and with the urging of Chef Orlando we have really come on board with that and through our tourism enhancement fund, we have put in some funds behind promoting the five steps.”
The programme will be launched tomorrow (May 16th), but is expected to officially roll-out later this July.
The Department of Environmental Health and SLHTA anticipate active participation by food handlers island-wide in raising the standards for food safety and handling to the benefit of St. Lucians and Visitors alike.