Food safety, water safety are top priorities: Bureau of Standards

Microbiologist Avicia Sweeney appeared on “Working For You” to talk about food safety and water safety.
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Microbiologist Avicia Sweeney appeared on “Working For You” to talk about food safety and water safety.

The St. Kitts and Nevis Bureau of Standards is tasked with the mandate of ensuring food and water safety in the Federation by actively testing and monitoring what is being consumed by citizens and residents.

While appearing on the Government’s weekly programme, “Working for You”, Avicia Sweeney, Head of the Microbiology Department at the Bureau of Standards, said that bureau takes food safety very seriously and conducts regular testing with the assistance of the Ministry of Health.

She said that the bureau has a monthly programme in collaboration with the Ministry of Health where they go out in different communities and test food outlets to make sure that the foods being sold are good and safe for consumption.

Sweeney also said that every quarter, the bureau conducts an island wide water testing which provides a deeper analysis of the water in the Federation to ensure that it is up to code and cleared for human consumption. She said that in addition to the island-wide testing, monthly testing at different water sources is also conducted.

She said that even in water, there are microorganisms present and there is a level of organisms that should be present in the water for it to be deemed drinkable. She said there are different standards for waste water, drinking water and pond/sea water.

Sweeney said that the department conducts testing on different foods and water to determine if it is safe for human consumption to avoid any adverse health risks.

“For food and water, we do several testing analyses including E. coli, salmonella, listeria, giardia, staph, yeast and mold because we want to make sure that the citizens of St. Kitts and Nevis are safe and protected,” she said.

Sweeney said that these pathogens can cause serious health implications including abdominal pains, fever and vomiting which can lead to further illnesses.

She added that if there is a health concern or emergency pertaining to contaminated food or water, the bureau will relay the information to the relevant ministries and inform the public of the threat.

Sweeney cited the recent recall of romaine lettuce in the Federation where there were concerns about the presence of E. coli and said that the bureau now has an advisory that mandates that any importation of romaine lettuce must be cleared by the bureau before being sold to consumers.

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