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UK and Korean scientists forge links for food safety

05 Nov 2010
Tags:  Food

LGC and KRISS scientists hold brainstorming meeting to discuss cutting-edge techniques for food safety

LGC and Korean scientists gathered in London this month to form the core for a brainstorming meeting on cutting-edge techniques for food safety. The meeting, held on 5-6 October at LGC’s headquarters in Teddington, South West London, was a continuation of the Foreign Office-sponsored UK–Korea Focal Point Project on Food Safety and the BIS Science & Innovation Unit sponsored Global Partnership Project. The Focal Point work links two top National Measurement Institutes (NMIs): LGC in the UK and KRISS (Korean Research Institute of Standards in Science) in Korea to foster advanced scientific co-operation. The Global Partnership work is spearheaded by Campden BRI and the Korean Food Research Institute bringing the strengths of two highly respected applied and fundamental food research institutes together.

The purpose of this workshop was to bring together UK and Korean experts from industry, food research organisations, regulators and academia to discuss issues, challenges and research strengths and requirements in the critical areas of food safety, control and rapid detection of pathogens and contaminants, with a particular emphasis on the challenges of the emerging and ‘unknown’. How do we ‘horizon scan’? How do we anticipate/prepare for the next incident? What new detection/measurement technologies should we be considering?

The UK and Korea are major food importers and have many common food control issues. A group of 24 experts from LGC, the National Measurement Office, Campden BRI, Heinz, Princes Foods, the Food Standards Agency, Kingston University and the Institute of Food Research joined Korean experts for wide ranging discussions aimed to ensure that the benefits of fundamental measurement research reflect real-life problems.

The Korean delegation was led by Dr Hun-Young So, Head of the Metrology for Quality of Life Division of KRISS who brought a multidisciplinary team including his own staff, Professor Jong-Hyun Park of the Department of Food Science & Biotechnology, Kyungwon University and Dr Hyang Sook Chun of the Korean Food Research Institute.

Cutting-edge developments in areas such as mass spectrometry, metagenomics and expert systems were explored to provide potential solutions to problems facing regulators and the food industry in protecting consumers.

The meeting’s participants decided on the following priority themes:

• Better informatics tools and information sharing to horizon scan for emerging and re-emerging problems
• Development of high throughput methods to screen efficiently for hazards
• The need for guidance to future-proof regulatory and compliance infrastructure to manage risks.
Specific areas for future cooperation were identified as:
• Specific protein and large molecule characterisation
• Rapid and information-rich methods for detection and identification of viable viruses and other micro-organisms
• Methods for characterisation of engineered nanoparticles
• Methods for elemental speciation
• Facilitating a UK and global culture of analytical quality for food industry compliance and fit for purpose regulatory models.

Derek Craston, Director of LGC’s Science & Technology Division and Government Chemist, said: “Tackling food safety needs a global approach that optimises partnership between fundamental research and industry practice. We were please to welcome such a high level delegation from Korea and the key input from UK stakeholders.”

Scientific co-operation, information sharing and further seminars and other activities are planned.