The Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera) based in York, U.K., and Waters Corporation based in the U.S. have today announced that they will open a new laboratory-based training facility, combining their respective regulatory, scientific and industry expertise to help solve the global food safety challenge.
According to a recent report from the European Commission, “there has been an alarming increase in food safety incidents” over the past few years in industrialised countries. The EC noted that the complex food supply chain and the continued growth of food exports and imports — which today exceed £690 billion (over 860 billion Euros) annually — increase the risks to consumers while also posing risks to European economies reliant on seafood exports, for example.
The Fera International Food Safety Training Laboratory (Fera IFSTL) will help by teaching the best available techniques for testing for food contamination and educating them on the different food safety regulatory standards around the world. This will help testing organisations to better detect contaminated food at farms, ports and manufacturing plants and increase compliance with food regulations, ensuring food is safe before it reaches the table. The training facility, based near York, will primarily train those concerned with exporting foods to Europe.
Fera Chief Executive Adrian Belton welcomed the initiative, saying “This is an excellent collaborative opportunity which will lead to real benefits throughout Europe and beyond. Fera’s food science experts are internationally recognised and now they will be able to pass on that expertise through this new purpose built training centre. This initiative is just one of several recent developments that support the development of a science and innovation campus at this site”
At the Fera laboratory, Fera scientists will lead intensive training programmes on EU-recommended testing methods for detecting possible contaminants in food using the latest technology and equipment. Courses will focus on detecting chemical contaminants preparing and testing samples according to fit-for-purpose methods to allow scientists to validate and use results to make the right decisions about whether food is safe and meets regulatory requirements.
Dr Andrew Wadge, Chief Scientist at the Food Standards Agency, an independent Government department set up by an Act of Parliament in 2000 to protect the public's health and consumer interests in relation to food, offered this third-party perspective, “It’s very encouraging to hear of this new initiative that will train analysts from overseas in food safety testing and regulatory requirements for food being imported into the EU. A significant proportion of recorded food incidents are due to imports therefore ensuring legal compliance and safety are vital for consumer protection.”
The training facility collaboration with Fera is the second in a network of international food safety training labs established in partnership with Waters™. The first IFSTL was opened in the United States in September 2011 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, University of Maryland and Waters. The training facilities in the network will coordinate and share expertise. As new facilities are added to the network, they will do the same, increasing knowledge and the use of global best practices.
As a global company that delivers analytical solutions for governments and name-brand companies in 150 countries, Waters understands the challenges that governments around the world face to ensure safe food supplies.
Said Waters Corp. Executive Vice President Art Caputo: “We are very pleased to partner with Fera in establishing this lab near York. 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.”
Fera employs over 700 scientists, many of whom are world-leading authorities in their field, enabling the organisation to play a key role in tackling the global food and environmental challenges of the next decade. Its state-of-the-art laboratories near York have the potential to achieve many more new synergies through further development of the site as a hub for related science and innovation.
Several international organisations, including the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and the World Bank, have recognised the value of improving food safety at the origin, which requires a thorough understanding of domestic and regional regulatory standards, and appropriate scientific training to meet those standards. Governments and food manufacturers around the world have sought the training the IFSTL provides as part of their efforts to ensure food safety and protect consumers.
As part of the collaboration with Fera, Waters will help establish the laboratory’s construction, provide analytical systems and assist Fera in designing training programs. The facility will be equipped with Waters’ state-of-the-art ACQUITY®, UPLC® -MS/MS systems, sample preparation components, and mycotoxin analysis tools.