Remarks by the Minister of Health and Social Development, the Honorable Marlon Penn, on the occasion of World Food Safety Day



Warm greetings to all on the occasion of World Food Security Day, which is celebrated every year on June 7e.

World Food Safety Day is an opportunity to highlight the importance of being more aware of what we eat – in order to prevent, detect and manage foodborne illnesses and improve health.

Food safety is an important global public health issue; common in both developed and developing countries. There are over 200 known food-borne illnesses. Unsafe foods contribute to poor health conditions, such as impaired growth and development, non-communicable or communicable diseases, and mental illnesses. Globally, one in ten people is affected by a foodborne illness each year.

When food is safe, we can fully benefit from its nutritional value, hence this year’s theme: “Safer Food, Better Health”.

The good news is that most foodborne illnesses are preventable. Our behavior, the way we build food systems and how we organize food supply chains, can prevent toxic risks; bacteria, viruses and parasites; chemical residues; and other dangerous substances from ending up on our plates.

Food safety begins with farmers and ends with you, the consumer. It also requires food hygiene in supermarkets, grocery stores and restaurants to reduce the risk of contamination. Everyone working in the food industry has a responsibility to handle and prepare food that is safe and suitable for consumption.

The community also has a very important role to play. When preparing food, remember to:

  • Maintain good personal hygiene;
  • Separate raw foods from cooked foods to avoid cross-contamination;
  • Cook food thoroughly;
  • Keep food at safe temperatures after cooking; and
  • Use potable water.

When buying food:

  • Pay attention to expiration dates; and
  • Report any hazards or unsafe conditions to the Environmental Health Division. Indicate the name of the establishment, the date the food was purchased, the type of food and the type of hazard you observed.

And finally, if you have any signs or symptoms of foodborne illness, report it to Environmental Health or your health care provider.

Many food security issues go beyond the health sector and require us to adopt a multisectoral approach. The Department of Health and Social Development is committed to working with our partners in agriculture, commerce, business and other sectors to ensure a reliable supply of safe and healthy food for all people in the Virgin Islands .

Food safety is also a vital aspect of food security, and I welcome the recent passage of the Food Safety and Sustainability Act. With this in mind, the Department of Health and Social Development is actively reviewing and updating the Food Sanitation Regulations under the Public Health Act.

The ministry’s Environmental Health Division continues to build capacity and provide a range of education and enforcement services to reduce the risk of foodborne illness in the territory. The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) continues to provide technical and financial assistance to our food security programs, and we are grateful for their support.

In closing, I encourage everyone to do their part to produce and consume safer foods for better health.

Happy World Food Safety Day!

Joel C. Hicks