Yukiya Amano, IAEA director general, and Akira Nakamoto, Shimadzu chairman, signed a Memorandum of Cooperation in Kyoto on food safety research.
The donated liquid chromatograph with triple quadruple mass spectrometric capabilities (LC-MS/MS) can test for multiple contaminants in food samples simultaneously.
“Shimadzu has a philosophy of contributing to society through science and technology, and we wish to contribute to the advancement of global health and well-being by donating to the IAEA the equipment to support research and training in this area,” said Nakamoto.
Scientist training and research support
IAEA will use the machine to train scientists from labs worldwide in applying analytical methods to test for contaminants, such as pesticides and veterinary drug residues, in basic food products.
It will also support research on reliable methods to confirm the origin of and test for adulteration in food.
Contamination and adulteration can pose a significant danger to public health and loss of public confidence can lead to international trade bans and economic damage.
While advanced research labs have the ability to detect different types of fraud and contamination in food relatively quickly, such capacity is often limited in many countries, said IAEA.
The equipment is part of the renovation of the IAEA’s nuclear applications laboratories in Seibersdorf, Austria, in the ReNuAL+ project.
The IAEA helps countries to develop and adopt nuclear and nuclear-related techniques to control contaminants in food – including antibiotics and potentially toxic chemicals –to increase capacity to apply regulations on foodstuffs.
“The agency supports food safety laboratories in Africa, Asia, the Pacific, and Latin America and the demand for these services is growing, so this donation is very welcome,” said director general Amano.
The IAEA will receive the mass spectrometry equipment, with technical support for method development, under its Peaceful Uses Initiative (PUI).
It is the first private sector contribution of equipment received under the PUI, which was launched in 2010 for extra-budgetary contributions in support of projects for peaceful application of nuclear technology in the areas of health, food and agriculture and water and environment.
Lab construction and Costa Rican cooperation
IAEA is to complete construction of a second lab by the end of 2018 thanks to a contribution of €4.7m from Germany, Japan, Norway and the US.
The building will house three labs dealing with issues such as food safety that support the joint division of the IAEA and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO).
In other news, the National Institute of Nuclear Research (ININ) in Mexico has become an IAEA Collaborating Centre.
ININ work includes the use of irradiation to sterilize medical equipment and to treat food.
The four year agreement with IAEA will include additional training in areas such as lab quality control.
Over the next few years, ININ will be acquiring electron beam irradiation facilities and will receive training from specialists in the Republic of Korea.
Meanwhile, Costa Rica has benefitted from an IAEA technical cooperation project to remove dependence on labs abroad.
“We analyse 310 samples a month, 25% more than we did two years ago,” said Yajaira Salazar, food safety expert at Costa Rica’s National Lab for Diagnosis and Research in Animal Health (LANASEVE).
While fish producers used to send almost 200 samples a year to labs in Ecuador and Chile to check for harmful substances and comply with EU rules, LANASEVE can now do this analysis saving each firm at least €27,000 per year and in a shorter turnaround time.
CIISA, a Costa Rican company that sells beef and pork in the country, the US, Russia and Europe, also uses LANASEVE’s nuclear and isotopic analytical technology to ensure products meet market requirements.
Enhanced capacity to monitor veterinary drug residues and contaminants using nuclear or isotopic techniques has assisted in capturing new markers such as China.
“Globally, technology is getting better at detecting very small traces of residues in food. Which is a good thing for consumers, but which means that codes are getting stricter for exporters,” said Mauricio González, a food safety expert at LANASEVE who was trained through the technical cooperation programme.
Thanks to the nuclear techniques LANASEVE detected malachite green, a dye that is potentially carcinogenic and could damage DNA, in imported fish products.