An international food safety network has boosted the capacity to detect pesticide residues in Guatemala, Central America, "tenfold" and improved its testing for aflatoxins, poisons produced by fungi.
That's according to Imogen Foster, manager of the Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera) International Food Safety Training Lab (IFSTL) in the UK.
The first IFSTL was opened in the US in September 2011 by the US Food and Drug Administration, University of Maryland and food safety testing organisation Waters. In a bid to improve food safety training for markets exporting into Europe, Waters partnered with Fera to open the second lab in York, England, in January this year.
Training at the site is delivered by specialist teams drawn from more than 800 Fera scientists and support staff.
Speaking to FoodProductionDaily.com about the strategy for the facilities, Foster said: "The two IFSTLs coordinate and share expertise. Other IFSTLs are planned in Asia and as they come online, they will join this network, helping us to increase knowledge and the use of global best practices.
"The IFSTLs aim to serve as a global model by bringing governments, scientists and private industry together to harmonise training, expertise and technology and address food safety challenges.
"... Although not even two years old, the IFSTL has trained students from some 20 countries - including China, Indonesia, Guatemala and Chile ... For example, in Guatemala, IFSTL training has allowed the National Health Laboratory to increase their capacity to detect pesticide residues tenfold and to improve their testing of often deadly aflatoxins."
She said this would ultimately help Guatemala ensure its agricultural exports met US standards and open up the American market to Guatemalan producers.
Foster added that the labs had helped governments figure out better ways to improve their food safety, understand how they could lower contamination and ultimately expand their food exports for economic gain.
"In Chile, the Chilean Agriculture and Livestock Service called the IFSTL training 'greatly valued'. It has enabled them to improve their supervision of private laboratories and implement more effective techniques in official laboratories that test exports for contamination."
The Fera IFSTL offers dedicated laboratory facilities for the trace analysis of chemical contaminants in food and feed, including veterinary drug residues, pesticides and mycotoxins.
It is fully equipped for the extraction and clean-up of samples using techniques including solid phase extraction. Equipment at the site includes a Waters Quatro Micro triple quadrupole gas chromotography tandem mass spectrometer.
Systems based on liquid chromatography detection allows the lab to switch between four different columns and four mobile phases (two aqueous and two organic) during a single overnight run, allowing a large variety of different analyses to be queued up at the same time.
A choice of three different detection systems (two optical based and the tandem mass spectrometer) again allows a great range of flexibility in the range of analysis that can be undertaken, said Foster.
The Fera IFSTL reduces pressure on government regulators and improves capacity to provide training to foreign scientists, according to Foster.