Food Safety, should we be concerned?

Food Safety, should we be concerned?

Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. April 21 2015.  In the Caribbean region, foodborne diseases continue to increase and have huge impacts on public health and the economy. Every year, thousands of people in the Region experience one or more episodes of foodborne illness. 

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Trinidad and Tobago Office, and the Ministry of Health recently hosted a breakfast seminar and panel discussion entitled “How safe is your food”.   This was one of a series of activities that PAHO and the Ministry of Health, in collaboration with the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has embarked on to implement a food safety public awareness campaign.

During her presentation entitled “Food safety in Trinidad and Tobago:  should we be concerned”, Manager, Tourism and Health and Foodborne Disease Surveillance Programme at the  CARPHA, Dr Lisa Indar revealed that foodborne diseases in the Caribbean region had increased by 26% since 2015.   Dr Indar also highlighted the key findings of a recently published Burden of Illness study on acute gastroenteritis (AGE) in Trinidad and Tobago.  The study was conducted in 2008-2009 by the former Caribbean Epidemiology Centre (CAREC), now CARPHA, Pan American Health Organization and the University of the West Indies in collaboration with the Ministry of Health (  According to the study, each year approximately 135,000 Trinidad and Tobago residents (about 1 in every 104 persons) would experience diarrhoea due to possible consumption of a contaminated food or drink.  

Additionally, the study indicated that the estimated financial cost of acute gastroenteritis per year ranged from USD $2–$19,736,344, representing the huge health and economic burden that AGE poses to Trinidad and Tobago.  The annual incidence rate of diarrhoea (AGE): was 0.67 episodes/person-year and the monthly prevalence was 5.13%. The prevalence of AGE was highest among children under 5 years of age (1.3 episodes/year); children less than 15 years of age were 2.5 times more likely to get AGE and the mean duration of diarrhea was 2.3 days (range 2-10 days). 

According to the study, age, hygienic practices, and risky food consumption habits were all significant risk factors. Observations on ‘hand-washing’ showed that most residents (over 65%) always washed their hands; while a disturbing 13,000 did not wash their hands, before meals or after use of the toilet. In order to reduce the AGE/diarrhoeal illness burden in Trinidad and Tobago, targeted prevention strategies and educational campaigns were recommended, an increase in hygiene interventions aimed at the general public, and enhancement of the current surveillance system for AGE illness in Trinidad and Tobago.

Food Safety and Foodborne Disease surveillance is a priority of CARPHA. The Agency has implemented and promoted an integrated approach to food safety. This initiative, which started in 2005 under one of its predecessor organisations, Caribbean Epidemiology Centre (CAREC), is a regional programme geared at:


  • surveillance, response, prevention and control of foodborne diseases
  • improving food safety
  • strengthening regional and countries’ capacities for integrated FBD surveillance
  • integrating the epidemiological, laboratory and environmental aspects of food safety and FBD surveillance and response into a coordinated approach
  • sustaining intersectoral, multidisciplinary FBD and food safety programmes  
The panel discussion was part of a series of activities to celebrate World Health Day, which is observed on April 7th every year. This year, the World Health Organization (WHO) highlighted the challenges and opportunities associated with food safety under the slogan “From farm to plate, make food safe.”

Related images

  • Food Safety, should we be concerned?

Post rating


There are currently no comments, be the first to post one!

Post Comment

Name (required)

Email (required)


Enter the code shown above:

Latest Articles