Saturday 18 November, 2017

Calls for food safety awareness after Leptospirosis reports

Agricultural economist Omardath Maharaj is calling for Government to be more proactive regarding post-flooding food safety policies after a number of leptospirosis cases were reported in South Trinidad. 

According to media reports, 13 cases of leptospirosis were reported at the San Fernando General Hospital.

It is thought the cases connected to unhygienic conditions due to recent flooding in parts of South Trinidad. 

Newsday reported that two people have since died from the disease. 

Maharaj, who represents the Tableland Pineapple Farmers Association and the Felicity Charlieville Fishing Association, is asking what extra measures are being put in place for testing of local produce, meat and shellfish to ensure that the disease is not being spread. 

"There has been minimal, if any, information being distributed to the national community as it relates to flooding, food security, diseases (Leptospirosis, Cholera, Meningitis etc) and bacteria (Salmonella, E. Coli etc)." 

"Certainly, I am not aware of any national lessons learnt post-Tropical Storm Bret and the more recent flooding disaster towards mitigating the unsustainability and vulnerability of the local food system as it relates to preserving national food and nutrition security."

"Research suggests that the lack of important information and active surveillance compounds the fact that the level of awareness of these issues is low in the country."

"Leptospirosis, particularly, is still under-reported, and considered to be of significant public health importance. The recent food poisoning of young Tobagonian students in receipt of meals from the School Nutrition Programme is a living case study of our vulnerability," Maharaj said. 

Maharaj is asking the Ministry to update the public as to whether that has been an increase in the number of persons seeking medical aid for infections or diseases related to recent flooding, such as leptospirosis. 

He is also asking what public awareness messages are being conveyed to the public in order to take extra precautions.

He added that vendors and farmers should also be advised as to sanitary and safety protocols to ensure their harvests are not tainted. 

Maharaj is also asking for an update on the planned National Public Health Laboratory, which was recently announced by Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh.

"There is a vacuum in the national conversation...these issues and inherent discussions are of national importance and every individual, family, and organization should participate in the dialogue contributing to our national development agenda," Maharaj said.