Fish Facilities NOT Compliant with Minimum Standard of Health Safety

The following two articles were penned by a lettered son of the soil Dr. Robert Lucas,  Ph.D, Food Biotechnologist a few years ago and are relevant today. The subject matter is about food safety as it pertains to fish.

The  blogmaster apologized for the quality of the scans.

Workers at the fish market should not wear their working apparel in public places. Take a walk by the fish market and you can see them walking the streets wearing the boots that they work in on the processing floor. This is a bad manufacturing practice.

More than twenty-years ago, I suggested in articles that fish waste be ensilaged using Lactic-acid bacteria starter cultures to ferment the waste by dropping the pH to about 4.3. At such low pH levels spoilage microbes are inhibited from growing and elaborating toxins. I did my PH.D in lactic acid fermenting microbes so I knew what I was talking about, since I worked on fermented sausages.

When I was in the US at UMASS, the Professor I was associated with was using lactic-acid bacteria to convert fish waste into lobster bait ( lobsters are big business in the US) by the same fermentation technique. So I was surprised when the minister started keeping a lot of noise about fish silage and aid from Argentina: he got on as though it was the holy grail and as if it was something novel.

A couple of years ago (5-6) there was a call for applicants to apply to a comprehensive HACCP on all food processing plants as well as those engaged in the small-scale food industry. I applied and was told by Dr, Beverly Wood (who has no qualifications in food) that I didn’t supply enough information. I didn’t get job and neither did another applicant with a Masters in food. It went to a civil engineer and subsequent events were to prove that the civil engineer did not have a clue about what he was doing. Such are the things that happen in this country. The fish are now held on ice,but the entire building ought to be enclosed.

Dr. Robert Lucas,  Ph.D, Food Biotechnologist 



29 thoughts on “Fish Facilities NOT Compliant with Minimum Standard of Health Safety

  1. Another good article. I really do believe that some of those tough food standards are an overkill … just another use of technical barriers put up by developed countries to keep out food export from developing countries.

  2. Food and beverage is one of the single biggest exportable item for a lot of small developing countries, especially those not endowed with natural resource or having a diverse manufacturing base. Putting up technical barriers, under the notion of a rigorous food and safety standard, you basically are killing off their exports.

  3. Talking about food and beverage:

    South Carolina Farmer Sounds the Alarm on the Arrival of the Pollinator Bee Crisis
    By Alex Pietrowski

    The rapid and dangerous decline of the insect population in the United States—often called an “insect apocalypse” by scientists—has largely been driven by an increase in the toxicity of U.S. agriculture caused by the use of neonicotinoid pesticides, according to a study published Tuesday in the journal PLOS One.


    A farmer in South Carolina, however, recently posted evidence that pollination problems were beginning to surface in regional crops of watermelons. In the post, David L. Green explains how pollination of crops like watermelons, squash and cucumbers really works, and what the decline in bees and other pollinators is already doing to crop yields.

    The evidence of pollination problems is now showing up in our South Carolina watermelon crop. There are lots of junk melons being left in the fields.

    The photo is one that was only a partial failure, that actually came to market, but then was thrown away by the produce man. Spoilage had already started on the poorly pollinated end.

    Most people don’t realize that watermelon pollination is not an on/off switch but a progressive act. People think that the bee goes to the flower, and the flower is pollinated.

    What actually is needed is many visits by the bees to deliver 1000 grains of pollen, and evenly space it on the three sticky lobes of the female stigma.

    Each incipient seed needs a grain of pollen to fertilize the germ of the seed, and another grain to fertilize the seed coat.

    And the flesh of the melon only develops in response to the fertilization of the seeds.

    Note that this melon has a pointy end, because the incipient seeds were not fertilized. They are white. The other end is OK, as shown by the mature black seeds.

    Not only do the fertilized seeds control the development of the flesh, but also the sweetness. If you split a melon and see that half the seeds are white, you’ll know, even before tasting it, that it will not be sweet.

    The bees not only create the melon, but they also put the sweetness into it!

    Continued here (with pics of improperly pollinated, junk melons as pollinators are killed off by agro-chemical poisons):

  4. Robert Lucas

    Now that this writer knows a lit bit about food handling it is surprising that more Bajans don’t suffer from illnesses caused by food contamination.

    We are not even sure that handlers know how to wash hands properly after bathroom visits. Have seen several studies with handlers having contaminates under nails, etc.

  5. Dear Dr Lucas

    Thank you for providing the articles.

    What little I know about HACCP is that it cannot be applied to Fish Markets that refuse to upgrade its facilities towards Acceptable Working Environment Standards.

    If the European Union visited fish markets and landing sites to assess Barbados’ ability to export fish on the international market, It is obvious that Barbados would have failed miserably because none of the fish markets do not operate under HACCP or even have the basics of Good Manufacturing Practices in place. Was this a planned visit or an invitation from the powers that be to carry out an assessment?

    It is obvious to any non scientific and non technical mind that the deplorable state of the fish markets could not pass any applied scientific assessment for analytical purposes because the markets are absolutely substandard. Who in there foolish wisdom would allow the EU to come to Barbados to carryout an evaluation when the markets were not subjected to any remedial actions?

    Did the powers that be (if they permitted this visit) not see that there are just too many hazards that can be identify at these markets particularly the lack of a continuous cold chain to keep bacteria and other forms of spoilage slowed to a minimum? In other words, did the powers that be not see the ‘musty’ state of these fish markets?

    What we have in Barbados are market conditions that are accepted at the local level regardless of its shortcomings and disgusting conditions. Unfortunately, these practices are unacceptable for any type of international recognition far less the potential to export.

    I am not even sure if we have the right type of fleet that can bring in the metric tonnage of fish needed to meet export demands as well as to supply local needs because these boats are not well equipped and remained as designed years ago without any major upgrades to them. I think this whole idea of exporting fish (by the way which fish: Flying Fish, Mahi Mahi or Tuna) is premature thinking if you are not willing to up your game to be a competitive player.

    I believe strongly that the politics of our time has no interest in Fish Markets. Even the pronouncements by the new Minister responsible for the Blue Economy seems to be approaching any meaningful upgrades to fish markets on ”Box Thinking” and minor works. Although I have supported his enthusiasm on the nationnews blog, the promises from both of these administrations over their times in government has mounted to nothing but talk, promises, and little action. It is my belief that fish markets do no feature prominently as a sector important enough to be given significant financial resources.

    It is unfortunate that you were not given the chance to supply the Ministry of Agriculture with a HACCP plan for markets. I think you would have done an excellent job. If they hired someone else rather than you on the basis that you did not supply enough information, who then got the job base on ‘the more information’ they provided?

    When has ‘more information’ became the basis for selecting a candidate to do a good job? I would think that a proven track record of deliverables and implementations is far better. There must be a level of expertise and know-how, followed by experience and written documents, that should be the criteria for selecting a suitable candidate with a portfolio written achievements behind his or her name. I bet you that someone from ‘Over and Away’ was selected above local talent such as yourself because our thinking is that we believe that if it is from overseas, they know what they are doing far better than a local who was trained to do the same thing. So my last question to you, Dr Lucas is this.

    Was a candidate selected by this Dr Beverly Wood? And, if selected, is there an already implemented HACCP (SSOPs) plan working in fish markets as we speak? From what I see, it seems not. So someone got a lot of money and Barbados is left with nothing to show in the fish markets. Sounds like the same set up that have us thinking corruption all the time.


    Lloyd P Gulston

    • There is a culture and mindset that shapes a view in high places public markets are ok to be filthy. After all it is where common folk peddle their business.

  6. @ Lloyd P Gulston August 8, 2019 6:22 AM

    “who then got the job base on ‘the more information’ they…”

    I supplied my cv for the consultancy so the information was more than adequate. Obviously, a person trained in civil engineer would not have a clue. Let me explain some facts of life concerning Barbados. If you are truly a professional ( note the use of the word “truly” I would not categorize Dr. Worrell late of the Central Bank as a true professional, but that is only my opinion others might differ) and speak or write what is the correct position to take, there is bound to be some push back, which usually takes the form of being side-lined and over looked. As the saying goes such discrimination is par for the course locally. I am not interested in plaudits from passing on information to Barbadians; I do so firstly as some one trained in the sciences who believes that it is essential to educate those who may not have the necessary knowledge and secondly, as some one who remembers where he has come from, noting that about two generations ago, all Barbadians were dirt poor. It particularly pisses me off how the legal profession and some medical doctors treat members of the public; they seem to think that Barbados is a rich country when in fact it is dirt poor and forget that it was due to labor of the people they look down on, whose taxes allowed them to reach their position in life.

  7. @ Lloyd P Gulston

    Some head way has been made with the fish markets, like using ice to lower the temperature: a lot has to be done. There is a need for trawlers and instead of the defense force a coast guard is needed to protect Barbados’ exclusive economic zone. Similarly, digressing a bit, Barbados cannot export chicken to The UK, Eu or the rest of the world for that matter because of the addition of water to the dressed chickens, The island was supposed to get aid from the EU to fix the matter

  8. @ fortyacresandamule August 7, 2019 8:46 PM

    Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) of the USDA this a body most people in this part of the world do not know about. A country like Barbados can sign all kind of agreements with the US. Each State also has its own regulatory bodies whose regulatory requirements may differ from the Federal requirements which can result in rejection of imported products.

  9. Dear David BU

    It is mindset that is born out of total ignorance. Where is our bragged about ”educated people”? Nasty is nasty no matter what status or name you give it. Those who push the pens also buy fish from these markets but I guess they have nice little arrangements in placed that does not require them to go the fish markets.



  10. Dear Dr Lucas

    Thank you for your response.

    As to the use of ice, was this not a common practice at the genesis of the Bridgetown and Oistins Fish Markets?

    What I see happening in the fish markets is the continuous breaking of the cold chain. This tells me clearly that operators in the market need to be trained and, if trained, the issue of enforcement is raising its head in these markets as a case where it is seriously lacking.

    Regarding chicken, I recalled, speaking under correction, that Barbados largest chicken producer was ‘guilty’ of increasing the weight of chicken meat with water. is there some measurement for the amount of drip versus real weight that can determine if the poultry is being pumped with water pass what is acceptable and standard.

    I believe that there is standard set for how much water can remain in chicken at retail sales because the processing of chicken requires that it be washed in some sort of sanitized bath (is that true) to reduce microbial loads.

    However, this is not a problem unique to Barbados. The UK has also dealt with similar but what must be ascertained if the act of pumping chicken with water is deliberate to increase weight and subequently increase profit in-take.



  11. @Lloyd P Gulston August 8, 2019 8:04 AM

    The practice of adding water to poultry began in the Southern USA where the giant poultry farms are found. The poultry farmers claimed that they were at a disadvantage when compared to bovine and porcine meat packers. This assertion was made on what is known as the dressing out percentage: this basically, is the weight of the dressed carcass as percentage of the whole animal. Since poultry are smaller, the feathers and head constituted a large reduction in weight. The southern politicians were persuaded to back the uptake of water. After the birds are slaughtered, they are passed through a spin-chiller/slush ice to lower body temperature: during this process due to osmosis there is an uptake of water by the carcasses. The longer the contact time, the greater is the amount of water absorbed and therefore the greater the weight gained. I have written numerous articles on this abhorrent practice. The past president of the Barbados Egg and Poultry Producers (BEPP) Mr. C Brathwaite acknowledged the nefarious practice. It should be noted a US Federal judge stopped the practice in the America after it was challenged by the American Meat Association. It is almost two decades since it was acknowledged and not one thing has been done about it locally. The local poultry are adulterated since water is added. According to the judgement in the USA , only enough water must be used to ensure sanitary conditions. In other place cold air is used to lower body temperature.
    Added water can easily be determined by heating a weighed ground sample of the meat to be tested and drying at 100 degree C for about 12-18 hours.. The dry sample is weighed and is used to calculate moisture by simple arithmetic. Can also be done use rapid digital equipment when an almost instant reading is obtained.

  12. @Fear Play. August 8, 2019 9:07 AM

    This is a frivolous law suit. It is virtually impossible to have zero fecal contamination when one is processing more than twenty thousand birds a day. In the USA, after slaughter, the carcasses are subjected to an acidified chlorine treatment which reduces residual surface bacteria (The UK and EU refer to this practice as chlorine washing of poultry and would import US poultry treated in this manner). The medical doctors are living in an utopian world. All that is needed is for the poultry to be thoroughly cooked, it is as simple as that. All knives after being used on poultry should be washed before use and of course, hands need to be washed

  13. Thanks for these Dr. Lucas. How much has HACCP compliance improved at the main fisheries landing sites in the past decade? I believe that the EU sent a team in 2012 and the USDA did in 2018 to appraise our standards with regard to fish exports.

    I ask because the IDB is about to contribute about $0.73 million to the organization that I work with for a project to improve the Barbados tuna fish industry.

  14. @ peterlawrencethompson August 8, 2019 1:52 PM

    There has been considerable improvements where the inspectors are concerned. As for the individual food establishment it varies. In general I would say it has improved a lot ,but there is still a long way to go. What I find is that the small food establishments can’t afford to pay the large sums of money demanded by some persons who claimed to be consultants in the field. You would be surprised to learn that there are quite a few fraudsters lurking around. it is quite easy to pose as an expert since the HACCP is not that difficult to grasp at a superficial level. A lot of glib talk plus a power point presentation and you have the recipients of the course bamboozled. Any help should be directed at small food businesses it would be money well spent. In such cases it is best to provide training for the owner and maybe a worker or two. I say this because the worker can easily move to another job leaving the small business owner high and dry.

  15. @ Hants August 8, 2019 2:20 PM

    Barbados needs a coast guard( the one Barbados currently has is a joke) to protect its exclusive economic zone which foreign countries are exploiting. If a coast guard capable of interdicting and seizing poaching ships is not established all the talk about tuna is just talk. Tuna is scombroid prone fish and as such refrigeration has to be first class. Then since tuna is fairly high on the predator list, its level of mercury has to be monitored methyl mercury levels have to be 1ppm of mercury or less.

  16. @ @ peterlawrencethompson August 8, 2019 1:52 PM

    Judging by what the blue economy minister alluded to, it would seem that Barbados has not reached the level required. The minister alluded to upgrading the fish markets and grudgingly remarked that it was required to have the fish markets enclosed. It is obvious that that condition was placed before him by the EU and USDA, Although there have been improvements you still have dogs wandering in and around the fish markets. It is amazing that Barbados borrowed money to build a fish market and did not build it to international standards when it was cheap to do so. Such actions are the traits of a class people who do not have high expectations for the general populace.

  17. @ robert lucas August 8, 2019 5:22 PM
    “It is amazing that Barbados borrowed money to build a fish market and did not build it to international standards when it was cheap to do so. Such actions are the traits of a class people who do not have high expectations for the general populace.”

    Bang on!

    A succinctly perfect description of the mindset that pervades the decision-making skills set of those charged with the responsibility of public health and safety in Barbados.
    As the ‘old folks’ used to say: “Edikation aint commonsense”.

    The same mindset that is holding up the absolutely necessary upgrade of the existing sewerage systems and their immediate expansion right across ‘urban’ Barbados.

    The same mindset that blinds the authorities from seeing the need to upgrade and maintain in a preventative the ‘heavily used’ Oistins Bay gardens which is a major forex-earning cash cow for the struggling Bajan economy.

    Yes, the same mindset which sits like a monkey on the back of those tasked with the responsibility of making the Ole Bridgetown (which ought to be the country’s showpiece to the world) into a capital of environmental repute much deserving of the title: “World Heritage Site”.

    Is this what the Bajan Diaspora would be returning to when the “We Gatherin’ posse meet to greet in 2020?

    Where is the 20/20 foresight of the Leader and her Crown of sidekicks responsible for the environment, public health and safety?

    Why is the City of Bridgetown so poorly kept public hygiene-wise, given the fact that its Parliamentary representative is the MoH and a top-dog in the incestuously large cabinet?

    Why not commandeer the Defence force into using its large resources to wage a real war against the filth and garbage which bedevil poor Barbados starting with its ‘head’ Bridgetown?

    We are sure the Mighty Gabby Doctor Carter, himself a son of the same City, will be ‘well pleased’ to see that those “guvment boots” are being put to productively good use after eating 4 square meals of obesity-causing fast food.

  18. Dear Barbados Bu

    This market has been dubbed by me as the 8th Wonder of the world. Each time you look at it, it just leaves you wondering who in their right mind would have come up with a design concept like this.

    To think that you elect leaders to make the right decisions and time and time again, you end up with a wastage of millions on ill-conceived projects that are either ridiculous, poorly thought out, or done with the intention that someone or something must get there’s.

    The thing is, this market is situated on one of the four corners of the four cross considered by me to be a prime spot. It is so easy to change the entire landscape of this four cross with a construction that can enhance the area and make it appealing to the local and traveling public. A market that would have been designed to be practical and function, instead of weird and unrealistic, would have worked very well in that corner.

    I am surprise that it is still there after all these years of hurting people’s brains and eyes. Perhaps our elected leader will right a wrong. I am not even going to try to lay blame on which political administration permitted this under their watch because it would prove futile.

    Dr Lucas

    As Miller pointed out, you have certainly identified the biggest problem facing major progress in Barbados – Tunnel Vision and the inability to see Long Term.

    Depending on who the early ”architects” of this project were, and what conditions came along with the loan granted for the construction of this market, one can see clearly that the upgrade did not take into consideration Barbados climatic conditions and ”annual fly season”. No long term thinking.

    To think that you design the market so that people can remove their fish from the ground where it was being sold on damped-cut crocus bags and without ice, to tiled table tops without the means to display the same fish on ice, defeated the whole exercise and money spent. Mere Tunnel Vision

    It is as if the ”architects” felt that this was a drastic move towards improving substandard conditions to conditions that all can accept and feel proud about and indeed it was.

    I mean, the old fish market was nasty, crowded and unsanitary. The newly constructed fish market was a far better cry with more spacious conditions and a cleaner looking environment. It certainly was better than the last. However, fish in the new was still displayed at ambient temperatures. Flies were still swarming all around the fish and landing on them like it was their right. Hawkers were still performing the same poor fish handling practices from the previous market in the new. So it was a transfer of the old into the new until the new started to look like it was operating at the level of the old.

    To make matters worse, some wise soul came up with the idea to introduce the vendors to fish boxes and the rest became ”Murder she Wrote”. These boxes keep the markets sales areas very wet, and provides the ideal moisture conditions for bacteria to have a field day. Following the boxes were the advent of all sorts of cheap contraptions (wood cupboards for keeping utensils, and market trollies for transporting fish and storage) added another element to the already congested environment of these new fish markets. If the new markets were appealing in the beginning stages these unsightly contraptions and numerous pieces of unwanted things was now making it unsightly and less appealing. The old habits of the Hawkers came over to the new market with them, and they made what good the new conditions of markets provided to appear drab, nasty looking and very unattractive.

    Someones or some person failed in the construction phase of these new markets. The Oistins and Bridgetown Fish Markets were constructed without long term thinking or even a plan to upgrade them after a period of years. They did not improve the conditions to keep fish wholesome, relatively fresh, and protected from existing conditions that can impact their quality. The vendors were not even trained to understand the basic science behind fish hygiene, personnel hygiene, and sanitation.

    Many years later, the lack of long term plan and development approaches along the lines of upgrades and improvements lends testament to the position that the exercise was a total failure.

    Dr Lucas

    The markets, both, have fence enclosures from what little I have seen. I have never seen stray dogs at the one in Oistins or Bridgetown. What I see is an invasion if white cattle egrets and their fecal droppings all over the place. I have even seen vendors feeding them fish scraps so you will see the a lack of knowledge or training for vendors is helping to make a bad situation, worse.



  19. @ Lloyd P Gulston August 9, 2019 6:40 AM

    ” I have never seen stray dogs at”

    I can talk about the years 2000-2010, I visited the Bridgetown market every other day or so in those days to get sidings from flying fish for my cats. It was a normal sight to see dogs knocking around the place.

    Your article is spot on about the lack of long term planning and vision.

    • Last week David Ellis on national radio lamented the size of the rats spotted scampering around the city and elsewhere.

      We have no problem discussing imploding the old NIS building but an eyesore like the Eagle Hall market is allowed. What is says is that mid and upper class people are not affected by that physical embarrassment. After all these people shop at Brighton Open market on a Saturday after socializing for breakfast high priced coffee and all.

  20. @ Lloyd P Gulston August 9, 2019 6:40 AM

    The re are three entrances to the Bridgetown fish market. The entrances are opened at eight am. The entrances are left open until it is time to close. People are free to enter and leave so too are stray dogs looking for food scraps. There are a lot of stray dogs in Bridgetown.

  21. Dear Barbados BU

    You are spot on with your comment. It truly makes you wonder like how we are left to wonder further about when that ugly, dysfunctional market will be removed. Perhaps, as you are suggesting, the right people are not affected by this eyesore.

    Bridgetown was always a rat haven and like I have said numerous times on the nationnews blog concerning the best little critter on the planet, rats, rats are not the problem. It is the nasty habits of people, coupled with poor containers for collecting waste that is the bigger problem. Rats are opportunistic little beast. Provide the opportunity and they jump all over it.

    Dr Lucas

    Perhaps in that period there were stray dogs. I do not frequent Bridgetown that regular, I prefer Oistins because I saw some changes there that appeal to me very much.

    I can tell you that during the period 2009 till 2015, I never saw a stray dog there. I have heard about issues with rats at the market and that it had a serious rat problem, but during the period mention, no more rats were spotted.

    I would assume that the Unit in the Ministry of Health that had responsibility for catching stray dogs and compounding them, as well as the unit responsible for rat baiting etc, dealt with those problem at Bridgetown and Oistins?

    Also, I would like to hear your views a bit more on the levels of training of our public health inspectors. Is the level of training at the Community College on par with training at the International level? Can our inspectors find work with their qualification levels outside of Barbados in let us say America or even in the EU. My question is to find out if we have a course that is internationally accepted. I hope that you can comment on this without creating a conflict of interest for yourself seeing that you are a lecturer at the BCC.

    I have a good friend who indicated to me that in order to be a Public Health or Quality Control Official in the UK, one has to have a degree in Public Health and about 260 hours of practical. Furthermore, he said there must then go on further training to be identified as specialist or professional because they are responsible for carrying out extensive audits at a scientific level and must conduct training sessions at times for business that fall short of stipulated requirements. In addition a mandatory 160 hours of lab work is also part of the recommendation.

    Perhaps you have more incite on this matter than me. Please enlighten so that we can have an understanding of what Public Health entails and what qualification levels and training are necessary to function at a capacity that would give further approval to our public health as a competent authority whom can have the utmost confidence in.



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