Standards are high and inspection and hazard control procedures first class at the St Elizabeth-based fish processing facility, writes Mark Titus in The Gleaner. The business occupies 315 acres in the quiet community of Barton Isle and employs about 150 people.
Visitors are handed a document on arrival which requires particulars and a medical history. They are also required to sign an agreement to obey all safety rules while at the facility.
"Everything has to be documented... A whole range of hazard analysis is done to take care of anything that can compromise the quality of the item for consumption."
Stephen Levy, General Manager of Aquaculture Jamaica
Farm Manager Lawrence Alexander led the tour around the ponds, while explaining the meticulous processes observed in achieving quality.
At this point, Plant Manager Gary Walker took over and began to explain the process of food preparation.
I was taken to an area where the process to remove the blood from the fish begins. That procedure is completed by placing the fish in a bleeding tank, where they are kept for another 10 minutes.
Entering the abattoir, I was again required to read and sign another document, as well as remove my jewellery, watch and any other item that might be a potential hazard. The document further stated that hair and nail extensions were not allowed. I was clothed in a gown, while my head and shoes were also covered. Every worker was dressed similarly.
According to Stephen Levy, general manager of Aquaculture Jamaica Limited, every aspect of food preparation must be done with great care.
"Everything has to be documented, from how you feed the fish down to packaging, how your knives are sharpened to how they are stored, who stores them, what kind of chemical is used to clean them. A whole range of hazard analysis is done to take care of anything that can compromise the quality of the item for consumption," he explained
Apart from being recognised by the International Organisation of Standardisation, Levy says the veterinary services division of the Ministry of Agriculture also exerts a great deal of pressure. Certification is required every six months and hazard analysis and critical control point standard must be maintained.
The local public health inspector also plays a very vital role. "They are the ones who can make or break it. They play a very active role in our day-to-day operations and his synopsis is crucial to whether our product is exported or not," said Mr Levy
However, it is the implementation and maintenance of such facilities in the public sector requires a high level of discipline from Government.
"To implement modern-day standards is very costly," said Levy.
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