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Promoting Food Safety and Trade with the Help of Nuclear Techniques: Singapore Hosts Interregional Training Course on Strategic Food Monitoring and Sampling Plans

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Participants of INT 5154 Interregional Training Course on Radionuclides in Food. (Photo: Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore)

Seventeen specialists in food safety from Singapore, Mongolia and Tunisia participated in a training course on Radionuclides in Food organised by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in cooperation with the Government of Singapore through the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority (AVA) at the Veterinary Public Health Centre from 9 to 13 October 2017.

Food safety and quality have become increasingly important world-wide in recent years, not only in terms of protecting the health of the consumer and ensuring food security, but also in regard to meeting international trade requirements. The training course was designed to provide participants with knowledge to set up or upgrade capabilities for radionuclide testing in food, and to implement appropriate monitoring programmes in their own countries and enable more effective contributions to relevant standard/guideline setting and implementation. The training also provided an opportunity for networking among the participating institutions and staff.

The course, conducted within the framework of an IAEA technical cooperation project[1], with support from the IAEA/FAO Joint Division of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture, focused on strategic food monitoring and sampling plans, and provided participants with an overview of radiological analytical techniques. The course also included laboratory sessions to enhance the participants’ practical knowledge of radionuclide analysis in food. Standards and regulations for radionuclides in food and drinking water, together with specific examples, were presented and discussed.

Participants benefit from a lab session on gamma spectrometry. (Photo: Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore)

As part of the course, each participant was given the opportunity to design a monitoring programme for radionuclides. Students presented and discussed issues with the experts, including selection of radionuclides, food type and analytical techniques. Laboratory sessions focused on various analytical techniques including Gamma Spectrometry, Alpha Spectrometry and Liquid Scintillation Counting, as well as on sample preparation using microwave digestion, solid phase extraction columns and electrodeposition. These sessions provided the participants with a better understanding of important concepts and the overall workflow of several radiochemical analyses. 

The IAEA technical cooperation project through which this course was delivered is helping build capacities to collect reliable data sets in several Member State laboratories. This is an important step towards establishing protocols and harmonizing laboratory quality systems for analytical methods and monitoring programmes, and will ultimately contribute to setting standards that will support cooperation between countries and across regions.  

The training course provided a useful platform for such cooperation, offering tailored practical laboratory exercises, group discussions, and support for data processing and reporting.

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[1] INT5154: ‘Improving Food Safety through the Creation of an Interregional Network that Produces Reliable Scientific Data Using Nuclear and Isotopic Techniques’

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