Towards improved food safety testing practices in the African continent

The International food safety training laboratory (IFSTL), hosted by the Food Risk Analysis and Regulatory Excellence Platform (PARERA), which is a joint endeavour developed by the Food Science Department of Laval University and the Institute of Nutrition and Functional Foods (INAF), is implementing a unique food safety laboratory training initiative destined to enhance competencies in methods of analysis of food contaminants including rapid screening methods using immunochemical techniques,chromatoraphy/mass spectrometry based methods to determine pesticides and mycotoxins in food in agri-food products.

This training brings together 80 food laboratory experts from 29 African countries, mostly from food and feed testing laboratories associated with regulatory organizations. This training will build the capacity of regulatory laboratories in Africa to engage in regional and international trade in agricultural commodities.

It willcombine on-line training for a period of 4 months, followed by a train-the-trainer phase in one of the IFSTL affiliated facilities. Selected trainees will be coached to apply analytical methods using liquid chromatography techniques coupled with mass spectrometry for pesticide residue and mycotoxin analysis. Beneficiary trainees would then be supported to coach other peers within their laboratory to adapt or adopt the analytical methods used during their own training in support of the propagation of best practices. To assess the competencies acquired during the training, participation of the trainees in a round of proficiency testing or an equivalent verification approach will be ultimately organized.

“A robust food laboratory testing capacity is a cornerstone of food regulatory systems that may condition the free flow of traded food commodities” declared Prof. Samuel Godefroy, the lead scientist in charge of this initiative. “We are privileged to contribute to the propagation of best practices in food laboratory science used in regulatory settings in the African continent, at such an important juncture of building the Pan African Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA)” he added.

This unique training initiative is funded by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Foreign Agriculture Service and by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), in collaboration with Waters Corporation. Implemented by PARERA through the IFSTL this project is carried out thanks to the partnership of the African Union and the Sub-Saharan Africa section of AOAC International. PARERA was previously involved in collaborative projects with the same partners to create and maintain a community of regulatory experts in West Africa, with an emphasis on food regulatory testing, as part of on-going efforts to support standardization and harmonization of food analytical methods.