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25 November 2015

Ensuring food safety requires specialist laboratory knowledge and training

Workshop participants in Vietnam getting hands-on laboratory training

Workshop participants in Vietnam getting hands-on laboratory training

Effective food control systems ensure a safe food supply on a national and global scale. Specialized laboratories play an essential role in monitoring and surveillance schemes, providing feedback on the effectiveness of agricultural practices in producing food that is safe and meets requirements for international trade.

Scientists of the Joint FAO/ IAEA Division Food and Environmental Protection Laboratory (FEPL) in Seibersdorf assist laboratories in IAEA member states to live up to the high standards required. This month alone, FEPL staff provided training and education at workshops in the Czech Republic and Vietnam for more than 120 scientists and regulators in food safety issues from more than 30 countries.

Challenges in planning and implementing effective food control systems were the focus of the workshop in Prague. Special emphasis was put on the research and testing requirements for analytical laboratories in developing countries. "Implementing these testing schemes is challenging and requires strong networking, human resource development, research and capacity building in the field of food control," explained Andrew Cannavan, Head of the Seibersdorf-based laboratory and Scientific Secretary of the workshop.

The workshop was attended by more than 70 participants from more than 30 countries. It was held in conjunction with the 7th International Symposium on Recent Advances in Food Analysis (RAFA), a major global event focusing on food analysis. As such, the training course participants had the chance to consolidate technical aspects of the training in the international symposium which followed it. The symposium offered valuable opportunities for the scientists from developing countries to develop working collaborations; "Networking enhances the sustainability of the control systems in Member States and helps to harmonize the approach to food safety control internationally," explained Cannavan.

Protecting the integrity of the food supply chain is of utmost importance: "There is a strong need for methods to monitor and verify food safety and quality, and ensure food traceability. This is made evident by the ever growing list of food product recalls due to contamination," said Britt Maestroni, a scientist in the Food and Environmental Protection Laboratory Seibersdorf and in charge of the training workshop held in Vietnam over two weeks.

The workshop in Vietnam was attended by nearly 50 participants from 11 Member States from Asia Pacific and the Middle East Region. It focused on the protection of the integrity of the food supply chain as a holistic process, involving multiple stakeholders. This training workshop was held in collaboration with the Global Food Safety Partnership (GFSP) and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).

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