Have you ever eaten callaloo, naseberry, or ackee? If you’ve been to Jamaica, you may have stumbled upon these commodities, but until last week they were foreign to me. Almost every time I travel somewhere new, I realize there’s a world of food I’m missing out on, and Jamaica was no different.
In September, I was invited to attend and present at a Produce Safety Summit in Kingston, Jamaica with members from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Produce Safety Alliance, Bureau of Standards, Jamaica, and several other organizations throughout the Caribbean with a shared goal of increasing exports and thereby fostering the produce industry throughout the region. I was invited to present some current research on produce safety (including work conducted by Dr. Michelle Danyluk at University of Florida), while other team members described the different parts of the Food Safety Modernization Act that apply to farmers exporting to the United States, as well as resources available to support outreach efforts to produce farmers.
On day 2, I had the opportunity to teach a Produce Safety Alliance (PSA) Grower Training alongside Dr. Betsy Bihn of the PSA and local trainers. The conversation throughout the training was animated, and we enjoyed describing the differences and similarities in production practices between U.S. and Jamaican farms. One of the first things we learned was that not only was mango the preferred fruit for most Jamaicans in our classroom, but most individuals were very passionate about what variety of mango they thought was best!
Our third day was spent making site visits to a local farm and packinghouse so that Mr. Trevor Gilbert from the FDA could demonstrate how to conduct an On-Farm Readiness Review (OFRR). The OFRR serves as a sort of preview for farms or packinghouses, where regulators or educators are invited on farm prior to an official inspection to discuss what is being done well and what a future inspector may want to see during subsequent visits. This gives operations an opportunity to get an idea of what they can expect during an official inspection, as well as an opportunity to ask questions.
As far as the produce I mentioned at the beginning of this, I had the opportunity to try ackee with saltfish, which is typically served for breakfast and is the national dish of Jamaica. Ackee is a fruit that’s toxic until it ripens, at which point it is cooked up with fish, tomatoes, onions, and Scotch bonnet pepper (another Jamaican favorite that finds its way into most dishes) to make a dish that looks not unlike scrambled eggs, but tastes way better. As far as callaloo and naseberry, I’ll have to schedule a return trip to try those out.