Focus on food safety at international training centre

By Gary Scattergood

- Last updated on GMT

The new lab near York will mainly train overseas scientists concerned with exporting foods to Europe
The new lab near York will mainly train overseas scientists concerned with exporting foods to Europe

Related tags Food safety International trade

A new international training centre will help “raise the bar” for the standard of food imported into the UK and protect consumers against a rising tide of food safety incidents.

The Food and Environment Research Agency’s (FERA’s) International Food Safety Training Laboratory (IFSTL), based near York, will mainly train overseas scientists concerned with exporting foods to Europe.

Because a significant proportion of food safety incidents reported in the EU are due to imports, ensuring the legal compliance and safety of imported food is vital for protecting consumers.

The EU and other international organisations are promoting the value of improving food safety testing globally so risks can be identified and tackled ‘at source’.

Experts from FERA – an executive agency of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) – will lead training programmes that teach best practice methods to analysts from overseas, using state-of-the art technology and equipment for determining chemical contaminants and residues in food.

European trade

This will enable food producing countries around the world to implement their own solutions and gain access to the opportunities offered by trade with Europe.

Speaking yesterday (January 22) at the opening of the new Sand Hutton IFSTL – a joint venture with analytical equipment manufacturer Waters  ​Corp – DEFRA minister Lord de Mauley said: “It’s very encouraging to see the public and private sectors working together to facilitate trade from outside the EU. This will improve food safety testing for food imported into the EU, ensuring food is safe before it reaches our tables.”

Guests at the official opening were told that the laboratory would draw on FERA’s extensive expertise as a world leader in the application of analytical chemistry to food safety testing and as the UK National Reference Laboratory for chemical contaminants in food, pesticide residues and veterinary drug residues.

FERA chief executive Adrian Belton said: “We welcome this opportunity to be able to pass on our expertise in food analytical testing. This is underpinned by over 30 years’ scientific experience in the area, together with detailed knowledge of current and emerging regulations, and internationally recognised quality standards. All of our food analysis work is carried out in modern laboratories by highly trained scientists, using state-of-the-art analytical equipment.”

International network

The FERA IFSTL is being launched as part of an international network of food safety training laboratories aimed at raising standards of food safety testing globally. The first IFSTL was opened in the US in September 2011 by the US Food and Drug Administration, University of Maryland and Waters Corp.

Waters Corp executive vice president Art Caputo said: “We believe that this collaboration will lead to better science and technology, and this in turn will help us raise the bar on food safety. We know the scale of this challenge requires us to address it globally, which is why we are excited to expand the IFSTL network.”

In the first year of operation courses will cover pesticide residues, veterinary drug residues and mycotoxins. In subsequent years, the range of courses will be expanded, including running bespoke courses for specific customers if required.

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