Iceland improves food safety measures
Countries participating in the global food trade must ensure that foods are safe and that their food safety authorities can work in accordance with international standards. An important contribution towards strengthening food safety in Iceland was made in recent years by a partnership between the German and Icelandic authorities. On the German side, the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) and the Lower Saxony State Office for Consumer Protection and Food Safety (LAVES) were involved. The most recent project in the close collaboration with the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST) and the Icelandic Food and Biotech R&D (Matis) started in January 2014. The project was financially supported by the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL), and operations were coordinated by a long-time expert on site. The Icelandic Government ensured the necessary funds for improving the laboratory capacity at MATIS. "It was our goal to ensure, both in terms of institutions and laboratory capacities, that Iceland meets the food safety requirements in an increasingly globalised food market", said the Presidents of the BfR, Professor Dr. Dr. Andreas Hensel and LAVES, Professor Dr. Eberhard Haunhorst on the occasion of the final project event on 26 June 2014 in Reykjavik. "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. "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" added the Director of the Office for Food safety and Consumer protection at MAST, Mr. Sigurður Örn Hansson.
The main priorities of the bilateral project were to improve and implement the analysis of pesticide residues, food contaminants such as PCBs as well as the detection of genetically modified food and feed. Another important aspect was the establishment of modern analytical methods for detecting marine biotoxins in shellfish. To achieve this goal, new state of the art laboratory equipment for chemical analysis has now been installed at Matisand the relevant staff members have been trained on site to carry out official analytical methods according to EU standards. A number of experts from the German partner institutions supported this comprehensive training.
Another focus has been to develop methods of food monitoring in collaboration 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. The program also included internships and training professionals from the Icelandic surveillance authorities in Germany. This part of the project was under the responsibility of the Lower Saxony State Office for Consumer Protection and Food Safety and was carried out by pursuing a practical approach, in which the Icelandic visiting scientist were working on location in the field in Germany. As a result of the cooperation, Iceland is now capable of conducting, both in terms of organisation and technology, food safety investigations in accordance with international standards.
German and Icelandic participants on the "Conference on Nordic Bioeconomy and Arctic Bioeconomy"
About the BfR
The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) is a scientific institution within the portfolio of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL). It advises the Federal Government and Federal Laender on questions of food, chemical and product safety. The BfR conducts its own research on topics that are closely linked to its assessment tasks.
The Lower Saxony State Office for Consumer Protection and Food Safety (LAVES) is responsible throughout the state for testing and assessing official samples from all process and product stages of the food chain. LAVES has six testing facilities all over Lower Saxony. The various LAVES departments execute official functions in the area of consumer health protection and provide advice to the local veterinary authorities.
The Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST) is the central au-thority in the field of food and feed safety, animal welfare and animal and plant health. The Authority is responsible for import and export con-trols and carries out controls of primary production, slaughterhouses and meat and dairy plants in six veterinary districts, each with a regional office of MAST. The Authority is also responsible for official controls of fish processing and supervises the food control activities carried out by the municipalities at the retail level.
In the area of food safety Matis is responsible for analysing the majority of known food pathogens and contaminants that are likely to occur in Iceland. Matis is also responsible for the detection of genetically modi-fied food and feed in Iceland. Further, MATIS provides the Icelandic authorities with information and consultation on necessary actions to tackle food safety hazards.