New guidelines may soon be implemented as it relates to meat and meat products entering the country.
A team comprising members of the Ministries of Health, Trade and Agriculture is expected to be put in place with specific emphasis on examining the documentation being used regarding such imports. So said Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh at a ceremony marking the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking observed yesterday. It was held at the National Library in Port-of-Spain.
"The guidelines have been before T&T for many years. However, the last administration did not adopt the voluntary standards being put forward by the Council for Trade and Economic Development. So the issue is not only a Trinidad issue but also a Caricom issue," Deyalsingh said, adding that the team was expected to give the public a greater sense of security in light of recent allegations that chicken as old as five years was being dumped into this country.
But he said such a claim has not been proven.
"There have been claims and counter claims," Deyalsingh added, saying that the issue of the importation of meats and meat products, for example corned beef, fell under four ministries including the Ministries of Health, Agriculture, Trade and Finance. Regarding implementation of the team, he said once the policy was set other agencies such as the US Department of Agriculture had to be consulted, especially since chicken was sourced from that country. "All these things have to go through diplomatic channels so it would be difficult for me go give an actual timeline," Deyalsingh added.
Regarding the issue of drug abuse, he said the reality of this and the trafficking of illicit drugs placed a heavy burden on public health systems in terms of the prevention, treatment and care of drug-induced psychotic disorders. He said this year's theme of "Listen First" for the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking conveyed the message that listening to children and youth was the first step to helping them grow up healthy and safe.
"It is no secret that drug use has been identified as one of the delinquent behaviours in which some adolescents engage. The use of drugs at an early age is a problem in itself, but it may also lead to or at least be associated with other long-term health risk factors. In fact, alcohol consumption is a leading risk factor for non-communicable diseases worldwide," Deyalsingh said.
National Security Minister Edmund Dillon, who also spoke, reiterated the need for joint collaboration in the fight against drugs.
He said there were 91 ports of entry identified throughout this country and due to the large area this posed a challenge for law enforcement officials to patrol.
Alternative cancer drugs
On the issue of the shortage of cancer drugs, the minister admitted there was some shortage of "first line" cancer drugs but said affected patients were placed on alternative drugs so as to ensure treatment was continued.
He said this country over the years had always suffered from drug shortages, especially pre- and post-Budget. A note was expected to be taken to Cabinet next week to come up with a long-term solution so that the supply chain for pharmaceuticals would be more consistent than in previous years.
"The shortage of pharmaceuticals is something that has to stop and if and when I get that Cabinet note passed to significantly alter the way we purchase drugs for the public sector you will see much more relief."
He said the various Regional Health Authorities (RHAs) also have the authority to privately purchase drugs.