|Past Training Officer Fred Stewart delivering lectures to peanut farmers in St. Elizabeth, 1996
The Food Storage and Prevention of Infestation Division (FSPID) was established in 1958 out of a recommendation by D. W. Hall, a consultant seconded from the Tropical Stored Products Institute (TSPI) in England. The purpose of the FSPID was “to make provision of food and for the prevention of loss of food by infestation and for purposes connected therewith”.
At its inception, this division was called the Storage and Infestation Division (SID) and was located at 56A Brentford Road, Kingston 5. The SID was then part of the Marketing Department of the Ministry of Trade and Industry and was headed by the Mr. Kenneth R. Walker, Chief Pest Control Officer. He was assisted by Mr. H.G. Martin, the Rodent Control Officer and Mr. E.A. Kelly, the Insect Control Officer. These three officers received training from the National Resources Institute (NRI) in England. They were later assisted by three pest control operators, one secretary/typist/receptionist and two drivers. Some of the current FSPID officers have also received training from the NRI.
The Insect Control Unit focused on large food stores, supermarkets and bakeries and their main function was to assess the underlying factors re insect infestation, especially at the wharves. The Rodent Control Unit carried out population survey in local areas (wharves, waterfronts) and rodent baiting programmes. Both units’ main areas were the premises falling under Government control so that the employees would gain the necessary experience.
At first, the FSPID was only concerned with dry-produce storage, i.e. cereals, legumes, spices, oilseeds, tobacco and their products, but after concern re high losses incurred during marketing of fruits and vegetables, and in an ODM report (Hall, 1966), a recommendation was made that a scientific officer be appointed to address this concern. In 1969, Mr. Basil Been was thus appointed to work in this area and thus the creation of a “wet storage” section. This unit is now called the Post-harvest Technology Laboratory.
There were no food storage inspectors in its early years and hence the SID had to solicit the assistance of the Produce Inspectors and Public Health Inspectors. These inspectors would report on findings of infestation in dealers’ premises, but could take no action.
It was between 1969 and 1970 that the “SID” became the “FSPID” and the director’s title changed from “Chief Pest Control Officer” to “Chief Food Storage Officer”. A post for Chief Food Storage Inspector was created in 1992.
In January 1976 a tragic incident occurred which led to greater regulatory functions for the FSPID. Sixty-four (64) persons in St. Thomas became ill after consuming counter-flour which had been accidentally contaminated with parathion, a deadly pesticide. Seventeen (17) persons eventually died. This led to several recommendations from the Green Report of 1976 which included the inspection of all commodities entering the island.
The FSPID’s regulatory functions continued to increase and other units/laboratories were established over the years. The Microbiology Laboratory was opened in September 1987. The Rodent Biology and Control Unit is only one of its kind in the Caribbean. The Training and Information Unit was the last unit to be established (early 1990s).
The FSPID Today
Today the FSPID boasts a staff complement of over fifty persons with an Inspectorate and Disinfestation Unit (IDU), five testing/research laboratories (namely Microbiology, Pesticide Residue/Mycotoxin, Postharvest Technology, Entomology and Rodent Biology and Control) and a Training and Information Unit.
The IDU is the FSPID’s frontline unit conducting regulatory inspections and sampling at food facilities across the island and also at ports of entry. Samples are taken to the FSPID laboratories for analyses and disinfestations activities are carried out when necessary.
The FSPID laboratories conduct quantitative and qualitative analyses for microbiological and chemical (e.g. pesticide) contamination and insect parts, extraneous matter and evidence of rodent infestation. They also conduct research and consultations re storage methods and efficacy of pesticides. All FSPID laboratories are now undergoing the ISO 17025 accreditation process.
The TIU provides technical information to food establishments, pest control operators and the general public via training programmes, seminars, booklets, handouts, etc. with regard to proper pest management and food storage techniques.
Highlight of Achievements
Throughout its fifty years of existence, the FSPID has been involved in numerous programmes and initiatives aimed at maintaining or improving the safety and wholesomeness of Jamaica’s food supply. These include:
- The annual training of public health inspectors at West Indies School of Public Health;
- Training of pest control officers in Guyana involved in the fumigation of rice destined for Jamaica in 2000;
- The National Food Safety Compliance Programme which was aimed at improving food storage conditions and ensuring compliance with the FSPI Act and Regulations across the island;
- Certification of FSPID inspectors and scientists in HACCP system development and auditing;
- Being part of the team now involved in the implementation of the phase out of the fumigant methyl bromide, an Ozone depleting substance;
- Research with regard to storage techniques for various Jamaican crops to increase shelf-life;
- Training of personnel from various food establishments in pest management and food storage techniques.
- Being part of the team that developed standards for bottled coconut water.