New sanitary measures for North Andros produce after groundwater contamination

New sanitary measures for North Andros produce after groundwater contamination
Bahamian produce. (Photo courtesy of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture)

Officials say public water supply is unaffected and entirely safe for domestic use

NASSAU, BAHAMAS – An incident of groundwater contamination on a farm in North Andros has prompted new sanitary measures, according to the Bahamas Agricultural Health and Food Safety Authority (BAHFSA).

The contamination was confirmed after a test commissioned by a private citizen indicated the presence of E. coli and faecal streptococcus last month.

The BAHFSA alerted the Ministry of Agriculture, and an investigation into the extent of the groundwater contamination was conducted on January 13 and 14,

Tests revealed the presence of E. coli in the groundwater; however, BAHFSA said the results were inconclusive relative to faecal streptococcus.

Additional testing is expected to be completed this Friday, with other tests ongoing to confirm the presence of any other harmful bacteria.

The Ministry of Agriculture informed key Ministries and Departments, including Ministry of the Environment and Housing (DEHS), Ministry of Transport and Local Government (Department of Local Government), Ministry of Health, Ministry of Public Works, Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Resources, The Royal Bahamas Police Force, Office of the Attorney General and Ministry of Legal Affairs,” read a press statement yesterday.

BAHFSA has recommended the following measures for North Andros: all consumers using well water for potable purposes are advised to treat their wells with chlorine tablets, boiling, or a UV filtration system; residents are advised that if they find that the surface of a fruit or vegetable is compromised that it should be thoroughly cooked or else discarded; all produce will be required to go through an industry standard sanitary washing procedure prior to entering the market for distribution; all fruit and vegetables originating in North Andros undergo standardized treatment at the Department of Agriculture or BAMSI’s packing house before shipments are approved.

BAHFSA is responsible for the maintenance of Animal Health, Plant Health and Food Safety throughout the Bahamas.

BAHFSA will be introducing new groundwater testing and produce sanitation procedures in North Andros and thereafter apply it to other islands in the event that there is any contamination, the statement added.

Consumers who have questions or concerns can contact BAHFSA at: bahfsa@bahamas.gov.bs.