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Information and Knowledge Management

An important aspect of the work of the Food and Environmental Protection subprogramme is gathering and collating, as well as creating, information and data that will be useful in helping Member States to develop or enhance their capacities for the control of food safety and quality. This knowledge includes information in three main areas:

  • chemical food hazards such as residues of veterinary drugs or pesticides and natural contaminants and toxins such as mycotoxins, analytical methodology that can be used to detect and quantify such hazards;
  • issues around food authenticity and food fraud and associated analytical methodology;
  • food irradiation – latest developments in sanitary and phytosanitary applications, the comparative advantages and disadvantages of different sources and potential uses.

The knowledge compiled or generated and disseminated can provide a basis for appropriate risk assessment and management along the food chain to protect consumer health and help enable trade in foodstuffs.

Information is made available to Member States in various ways, including research and meeting reports, publications in the scientific literature, web-based training modules and webinars, databases, public outreach events, conferences and symposia. Laboratory networks coordinated or assisted by the Joint FAO/IAEA Centre, such as the African Food safety Network (AFoSaN), the Food Safety Asia Network (FSAN) and the Latin America/Caribbean Food Safety Laboratory Network (Red Analitica de Latino America y el Caribe, RALACA) form communities of practice that allow sharing and discussion of common problems and opportunities and help to develop or transfer best practices, and also allow identification and location of experts in specific topics.

The ‘Food Contaminant and Residue Information System’ (FCRIS) provides useful data on food contaminants and residues and includes analytical methods databases. The methods collections comprise standard operating procedures for validated analytical methods provided by Member States, collaborating bodies and the Food and Environmental Protection Laboratory (FEPL) at Seibersdorf. The methods databases for veterinary drug residues and for pesticide residues were developed in response to requests from the Codex Committees on Residues of Veterinary Drugs in Food and on Pesticide Residues, and FCRIS was expanded over time to include analytical methods for mycotoxins and other contaminants.

The Food Authenticity Research Network Hub (FARNHub), developed through the EU Research project Authent-Net with contributions from the FEPL, provides registered users with an overview of currently available resources related to food authenticity.

Two books summarising the results of an inter-regional project run by FEPL using various funding mechanisms were published by Elsevier/Academic press in 2018. The book, ‘Integrated analytical approaches for pesticide management’ collated inputs from 26 institutes in 12 countries, as well as FEPL, to provide generic guidelines on pesticide analysis and environmental monitoring. The second book, a laboratory manual entitled, ‘Analytical methods for agricultural contaminants’, comprises operating procedures for 30 analytical methods from 17 institutes in 7 countries and FEPL. A manual on good practice in food irradiation was also published in 2015 to provide detailed, yet straightforward, technical information for operators, food regulators, manufacturers and traders, who need to understand ‘good practice’ in this technique.

Since mid-2020,as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic modus operandi, the FEPL has been compiling a variety of training materials related to food safety, laboratory methodology, analytical chemistry concepts, chemometrics, information about residues/contaminants and food authenticity, into virtual training modules, available on the Sharepoint pages of IAEA NUCLEUS.

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