Senegal has improved detection of residues and contaminants in food products thanks to international help.

The four-year project strengthening laboratory capabilities for analyzing veterinary drug residues and contaminants in food began in 2016. It is expected to boost consumer and market confidence and make the country’s exports of agricultural and food products more competitive.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), trained 10 experts at four national labs to screen a range of residues and contaminants in foods that could cause health risks for consumers. Lab staff received method-validation protocols and training on analytical measurement uncertainty, proficiency testing and data analysis.

The technical cooperation project is part of the food and environmental protection sub-program of the Joint FAO/IAEA Program of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture.

Improved situation
Dr. Assiongbon Teko-Agbo, head of the Laboratoire de contrôle des médicaments vétérinaires (LACOMEV), said outsourcing of analytical tests was cumbersome and time consuming.

“Before our advanced analytical capabilities were established, we were severely hampered and had to send scientists carrying several food samples abroad to laboratories in countries such as Morocco and France to test for food hazards,” he said.

Veterinary medicines and pesticides are used in food production to control animal and plant diseases and pests. However, these residues and contaminants such as mycotoxins, biotoxins and toxic metals can pose a health risk to consumers. Testing checks products containing high levels of these substances are not in the food supply chain.

Through the IAEA technical cooperation program, equipment to identify these hazards, including a radio receptor assay and liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometer, were delivered along with training on how to use them. The IAEA also provided lab information management systems and consumables.

Increased capability
The radio receptor assay method tests for more than 10 groups of veterinary antimicrobials and pesticide residues as well as mycotoxins in milk, meat, eggs, fish, honey, grains and animal feed.

The volume of food products analyzed for residues and contaminants has increased from 800 to 4,000 tons per year since 2017, according to the National Laboratory for Analysis and Control (LANAC).

Thanks to the project, LACOMEV was given responsibility for the national residue monitoring program for aquaculture products in 2017. Senegal’s fish product exports had an average of more than €300 million ($352 million) worth of annual earnings between 2016 and 2019, according to the Ministry of Fisheries and Maritime Economy.

LACOMEV has also trained more than 100 scientists from 15 French-speaking African countries and currently hosts up to 10 fellows and scientists each month.

Another lab in the project, the Food Technology Institute (ITA), was approved to ISO 17025 by the French accreditation committee (COFRAC) for aflatoxin analysis.

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