German-Russian dialogue on international food safety standards

Russia is bringing itself up to date by leaps and bounds in the field of food and product safety. Together with the Brandenburg Land Office for Consumer Protection, Agriculture and Land Consolidation (LVLF) and the Land Laboratory Brandenburg (LLB), the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment supports the Russian Federation in this process. One focus of the work is to bring the methods and organisation of the control authorities into line with the standards in the European Union. "Our Russian colleagues are very well qualified. What they lack are standardised monitoring methods", said Dr. Claudia Possardt, Head of the Consumer Protection Department within LVLF in Frankfurt an der Oder during a visit by heads of regional veterinary and chemical test laboratories from the Russian Federation. At BfR the visitors were particularly interested in the National Reference Laboratories. "There’s no such thing as a reference laboratory in Russia" added BfR President Professor Dr. Dr. Andreas Hensel. "We informed our Russian guests about the important role of these laboratories in the development and validation of food control both on the national and European levels". BfR and LVLF are planning longer-term cooperation with the Russian authorities in the field of food and product safety. The goal is to make the Russian control systems fit for the European market.

The 20 heads of regional laboratories for food and epizootic studies in Russia heard out about the latest methods for the detection of zoonotic agents in the laboratories of the Land Laboratory Brandenburg (LLB). Rapid, safe methods for examining foods of animal origin were presented to them. The delegation members also showed considerable interest in residue analytics. The main emphasis was on the tracing and precise determination of drug residues and pesticide residues in foods using state-of-the-art analytical methods like LCMS-MS. The experts demonstrated the latest generation of equipment and talked about the cooperation of the laboratories in the North German Cooperation Network (NOKO). In Frankfurt an der Oder the Russian guests were informed about the construction of modern laboratories for food analysis and epizootic diagnosis. Russia has considerable ground to make up in this field.

At BfR its President, Professor Dr. Dr. Andreas Hensel, explained to the guests the special tasks of BfR. This public authority is engaged, on a purely scientific basis, in assessing the health risks of foods and is completely independent of political and other interests. The visitors showed great interest in his comments about the by no means easy context of risk communication in Germany for which BfR has a statutory remit. The monitoring of zoonoses in Germany and the European Union was one important area of BfR work that was presented to the delegation members.

The reference laboratories for Salmonella, Trichinella and E. coli attracted particular interest. The BfR scientists explained to the guests from Russia the modern molecular-biological methods for identifying and typing zoonotic agents like, for instance, DNA chip technology. This test method has now been standardised and validated which means that it can be used in routine monitoring activities.

Another important aspect in the modernisation of Russian food control is the monitoring of its own control system in the course of the implementation of HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point) concepts in the food production plants. During a tour the delegation gained some insight into the food technology at BfR which makes it possible to simulate the manufacture of food from the original production in the shed down to the production of end points like, for instance, raw sausage. In this way, the critical points in food production can be identified and targeted measures developed in order to minimise the risks of contamination of food with pathogenic germs. This is an important precondition for the development of HACCP concepts.

The members of the delegation were impressed by the quality and competences of LVLF and the LLB and BfR laboratories. They were particularly fascinated by the links between administrative activities and research which they had an opportunity to observe within BfR. According to Professor Andreas Hensel these links made a major contribution to consolidating competences for scientific risk assessment. Both the representatives from Russia and the two German institutions look forward to future cooperation in the field of food and product safety.

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