The Director of Legal and Corporate Affairs at the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA), Joseph Bennie, has refuted claims that the FDA does not carry out its regulatory obligations concerning food safety appropriately.

According to him, the FDA has been conducting regular food safety inspections on food vendors and their facilities throughout the year.

He explained that why it may seem that the FDA has not been busy about food safety is because these inspections are not carried out in the same frequency on all facilities within the industry.

He said facilities which have been deemed high risk of not complying to food safety protocols receive the highest frequency of inspections in a year as against those ranked medium risk and low risk.

Explaining the processes, he said, “When you apply for a license, or a permit – food and hygiene permit, we conduct an inspection at the facility. We call that pre-licensing inspection. When we conduct that inspection and we find issues, we come for a second inspection called the follow-up. In almost every situation we have to do a follow-up.

“So inspection for licensing is at least twice before the license is issued. When the license is issued, we conduct post-licensing inspections especially what we term as the unannounced inspections. These are risk based, let me explain, they are facilities you will inspect once a year after the licensing has been done based on the risk level.

“Because the non-compliances we’ve observed and the reaction or the action of the facility to address those non-conformances are such that we are sure that things will work out very well for you. So once a year we conduct a post-licensing inspection unannounced.”

For high risk facilities, he noted that unannounced inspections are carried out often more than once in a year before they are re-licensed.

“For facilities that the risk levels are high, we conduct unannounced inspections more than once. What happens is that these facilities you do not inform them you’re coming for an unannounced inspection that is what it’s meant to be. So we conduct a lot of unannounced inspections within the year before the re-licensure because once in a year there’s supposed to be an unannounced inspection.

“We may not visit every single facility, that is the truth, but we visit a lot of these facilities unannounced and I believe that if you give the opportunity to hoteliers and those who run restaurants they’ll confirm to you.

“There are lots of unannounced inspections that we carry out between the two inspections that leads to licensing and re-licensing depending on like I said the risk level, it could be once it could twice. But once we know that the facility has been put on a high risk level that inspection is carried out more than once or twice a year.”