Food and Environmental Protection Laboratory (FEPL)

Consumers worldwide benefit from trade globalization through access to an increased variety of food products, year-round supplies and competitive prices. However, the globalized food supply can also introduce new food safety risks, revive previously controlled hazards and potentially circulate fraudulent or contaminated food. The Food and Environmental Protection Laboratory assists Member States in establishing effective food traceability and food contaminant control systems to support food safety, and to implement authenticity and chemical residue testing that help ensure food quality and combat economic losses, including the illegal production and marketing of counterfeit and adulterated food products, hence enabling Member States to improve local food safety and to benefit economically through participation in international trade.

Celebrating 50 Years 1964 - 2014, Joint FAO/IAEA Division Controlling food contaminants - Chemical contamination; Food consumers fear residues from pesticides, food additives, livestock drugs, environmental toxins, and persistent chemical pollutants. A major focus of the FEPL relates to food safety and the control of food contaminants, such as mycotoxins and residues of pesticides and veterinary drugs. It develops and transfers analytical methods and procedures, and provides expertise and services that enable Member States to generate validated analytical data essential to food controls. In addition, the laboratory helps establish the use of appropriate detection methods and promotes policies for providing feedback to regulators, farmers/producers and post-production industry on the effectiveness of regulations and practices put in place to ensure food safety and quality and protect the environment.

Establishing tracebility - Authenticity of food products; Trade in counterfeit food products is an issue in global food trade, diminishing consumer confidence, eroding market sentiment and raising concerns of significant health risks. FEPL's work centres on combating food fraud applying nuclear and related techniques to determine the geographical origin or ascertain the composition of food. Such authenticity work aims to keep one step ahead of the fraudsters, focusing on foods that are most commonly suspected of being misrepresented and employing innovative isotopic and related techniques that can be transferred to Member States. Encouraging and fostering the involvement of all stakeholders is also part of the FEPL strategy promoted to control laboratories in order to ensure that their work is sustainable and strategically focused.

Celebrating 50 Years 1964 - 2014, Joint FAO/IAEA Division Isotopic food fingerprints - mother nature's barcode. An essential element of food safety is the ability to trace food products to their source in order to facilitate corrective actions whenever problems are detected. Traceability of products across international boundaries is a key requirement to assure food safety; it may also be important for economic, religious or cultural reasons. Analytical techniques to determine and corroborate the origin of food provide an independent means of verifying "paper traceability systems" and also help to prove authenticity, to combat fraudulent practices, and to control adulteration.

FEPL collaborates in applied research and method development for product and contaminant traceability using techniques that make use of the naturally occurring stable isotope "fingerprints" in foods, as well as complementary techniques, such as metabolomic fingerprinting, i.e. a classification based on chemical processes involving metabolites. These techniques complement other new and emerging approaches for the detection of residues and contaminants, providing an effective package of analytical tools transferable to Member States to support holistic food safety systems.

For more information visit Food and Environmental Protection Laboratory webpage.