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BfR shares food safety knowledge in Iceland

Food safety in Iceland has been strengthened after a partnership with the German authorities.

The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) and the Lower Saxony State Office for Consumer Protection and Food Safety (LAVES) were involved.

The project with the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST) and the Icelandic Food and Biotech R&D (Matis) started in January 2014 and finished this month.

It was financially supported by the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) and the Icelandic Government ensured the necessary funds for improving the laboratory capacity at MATIS.

Harmonisation of standards

Jürgen Thier-Kundke, spokesman for BfR, said the project was used as an exchange, for them as a big institution in the EU to share technical knowledge.

“It wasn’t that Iceland food surveillance was not right but some organisational and technical things were promoted and we updated their knowledge," he told

“Harmonisation was the goal of the project, so we all work with same methods and take the same measures to obtain food safety worldwide.

“When one community starts a method, others join or adapt their procedures based on that.”

The main priorities were to improve and implement the analysis of pesticide residues, food contaminants such as PCBs and the detection of genetically modified food and feed.

Another aspect was forming modern analytical methods for detecting marine biotoxins in shellfish.

Laboratory equipment for chemical analysis has been installed at Matis and staff members have been trained on site to carry out official analytical methods according to EU standards and experts from the German partner institutions supported this training.

Exchange for food safety benefit

Thier-Kundke said he didn’t think there would be a need to monitor the country’s work.

“Food safety requirements involve technical standards of organisation, we study the US food and neighbour countries procedures and have an organisational type of exchange to harmonise world standards and later in law in the EU," he said. 

“With food exports into the EU, standards must be set or guidelines adapted by national regulators and their trade partners.”

The co-operation is a typical process that BfR has with Russia, China and Korea in different subjects.

“We focus on problems that need addressing at the moment, the goal is to standardise food safety procedures worldwide and develop the same safety levels everywhere. Worldwide exports meet standards of people you are sending the food to,” said Thier-Kundke.

Another focus was to develop methods of monitoring with the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority.

These included support from German experts regarding risk assessment and risk management in official controls, for both the central monitoring authorities (MAST) and the ten independent local authorities, responsible for controls at the retail level.

"Thanks to the close cooperation between the Icelandic competent authorities and the German partners we now have enhanced legislative, technical and administrative knowledge regarding official controls in order to ensure consumer protection," said Sigurður Örn Hansson, director of the office for food safety and consumer protection at MAST.

The program also included internships and training professionals from the Icelandic surveillance authorities in Germany.

"This joint project has contributed significantly to the increase of the laboratory capacity in Iceland, which will enable us to conform to European standards and facilitate the global trade of Icelandic food products," said Dr Sveinn Margeirsson, chief executive officer of Matis.

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