Community Health Services Director Dr Tereapii Uka was pleased to see different faces, noting those from the Pa Enua and the private sector including, CITC and Prime Foods.
“We import so much food, a lot of food, we need to make a choice - we just have to make the right choice. It’s not just what we eat, it’s what we put on the table,” said Dr Uka.
“Our cultural side plays a part in the lifestyle of the way we behave with food. These are things we need to tidy up, how we store, prepare and market our food so we can have some sort of control, also food licenses to manage stores selling food ready to eat, and managing food expiry dates, it’s important we need to do this now.”
“What we decide on today will have an impact on our children in the future, not just for the government but for the people, the Pa Enua. We need indicators so we have some sort of control, some management.”
Keynote speaker and associate minister of health Patrick Arioka, also acknowledged the private sector attendance.
“Not only we as government agencies play our responsible roles to deliver the right services, but the private sector is also at the forefront, as well as the engine of our economy, your (private sector) knowledge that you share with us will be an important one,” Arioka said.
“Finally, we are starting something on putting together food safety indicators for our nation, so that our people will continue to live prosperously.
“As you can see we are living prosperously, there is no poverty in this country, our way of socialising with each other, enjoying the best that we can, we are so lucky and so fortunate.”
Arioka emphasised the importance of deliberating on the indicators that are important to the country, adding “they cannot be the same as any other country, that means it needs to be in Cook Islands context, we need to understand - how do we consume our foods, one of the ways in that we consume our food relates to our culture, and culture is very influential in the way we consume.”
Arioka said the government initiative for the years ahead is very clear.
“We have a high cost in terms of health and diseases and therefore we need we need to find ways to minimise the impact of illnesses to our people that is caused by NCDs, not forgetting food nutrition as well.
“Let’s ensure that the indicators are measurable and what kind of impact those indicators will have.”
The information gathered from the workshop will become policy ideas for government to deliver on the decisions to ensure the safety of our people and our country.
“Our country thrives on tourism, let us not forget that we need to think ahead where we can showcase to the world how safe our country is in our food,” Arioka said.