KINGSTON, Jamaica – (JIS) – Minister of Agriculture and Lands, Roger Clarke, has said that the export of ackee to the United States (US) will resume next month.
Mr. Clarke, who made the announcement at a press briefing held Tuesday, September 26 at the Hotel Four Seasons, warned that exporters, who flouted the rules set by the US Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) for fruit to enter that country, would be expelled from the system.
“Some of the players within the industry will have to understand that they would have to live up to certain norms. Up to recently, somebody tried to send away ackee labeled as callaloo and it is good that it was intercepted here. The conditions for us to enter the market will be very, very strict and every player will have to live up to expectations,” said the Minister.
He added that “anyone caught going against the rules and regulations should be expunged from the system, because that is the only way we are going to really live up to what is expected of us”.
In the meantime, President of the Jamaica Exporters Association, Dr. Andre Gordon, said that preliminary findings of a study being undertaken on the safety of ackees, has concluded that unripe fruit was being picked from the trees, resulting in an increase in hypoglycin levels.
“A lot of processors had problems because the product that they were handling in their traditional manner had changed. The hypoglycin levels had gone beyond what they normally are,” he pointed.
The initial findings of the study, Dr. Gordon said, “indicate that what was happening in the industry is that people were no longer waiting for the fruit to ripen and they were taking all the fruit off the tree.”
“Essentially, the raw material supply was compromised right across the island largely because of the practices being employed in the industry,” he stated.
Dr. Gordon informed that all processing plants have now implemented more stringent controls to protect their raw material supply. In addition, he indicated, the wholesale stripping of ackees from trees and forced ripening of the fruit has to some extent been curtailed and “most of the plants are trying to ensure that they do not buy ackees that fall into that category.”
Dr. Gordon informed that during the conduct of the study “we looked at ackees at stages going for what is regarded as unripe to what is normally and traditional regarded as ripe and safe. We also took pictures of the raw material at different stages”.
In December 2005, the US FDA announced a recall of 31 cases of canned ackees shipped to Massachusetts, New York and Connecticut, due to higher than acceptable levels of hypoglycin.
Dr. Gordon said that “companies will have to implement stricter procedures in both receiving and management of the fruit throughout the process to ensure that they consistently eliminate this product as a risk”.